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NEWS

Tarantulas

to treat T2?

Molecules found in tarantula venom

could offer a new treatment option for

people living with Type 2 diabetes. The

early-stage research, presented at the

Diabetes UK Professional Conference

(DUKPC) 2021, found that a molecule

called ΔTRTX-Ac1 reduced blood

glucose levels and decreased food

intake in mice.

The researchers led by Professor

Nigel Irwin at Ulster University

previously uncovered that the venom

of the Mexican blonde tarantula

could increase insulin production

and lower blood glucose levels, but

why this happens has not been clear

until now. These new findings, by PhD

student Aimee Coulter Parkhill, have

pinpointed that a molecule called

ΔTRTX-Ac1 could hold the key.

The researchers developed a

synthetic version of ΔTRTX-Ac1 to

uncover whether it has the same effect

on insulin-producing beta cells of the

pancreas in lab conditions, as well as

in mice.

The researchers found that ΔTRTXAc1 increased

insulin secretion from

pancreatic beta cells in the lab more

than two-fold. The venom molecule

may be controlling channels on the

surface of beta cells, acting as the

gatekeeper that allows other molecules

to flow in and out of the cells. ΔTRTXAc1 also improved

beta cell growth

and didn't damage the cells, making

it a potential future treatment that

warrants further investigation.

When injected into mice alongside

glucose, ΔTRTX-Ac1 steadily reduced

blood glucose levels over an hour,

suggesting it can ramp up insulin

release in mice, as well as in cells in

the lab. ΔTRTX-Ac1 also reduced food

intake in mice, suggesting it may act to

suppress appetite.

Researchers now plan to uncover

precisely how ΔTRTX-Ac1 functions

and assess its effectiveness over longer

periods in animal models of diabetes.

TWO YEARS FOR TYPE 2

People living with Type 2 diabetes are on average waiting more than two

years before receiving a diagnosis. There are around 4.8m people living

with diabetes in the UK - including, it is estimated, the 'missing million',

of around 1m who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.

The team of researchers, led by Dr Katie Young at the University of

Exeter, analysed data from 200,000 participants of the UK Biobank who

did not have a clinical diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. When participants

enter the UK Biobank study - one of the largest health studies in the

world - blood samples are taken and their health is monitored over time.

Among the 200,000 people identified, 1% (2,022) had a reported

HbA1c (a measure of average blood glucose levels for the last two to

three months) of 48mmol/mol (6.5%) or over. This is the threshold at

which - when combined with additional measures - Type 2 diabetes

is diagnosed.

The researchers linked the Biobank data with the individuals' GP

records and found it took an average of 2.3 years following the elevated

HbA1c test to receive a clinical diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Almost a

quarter of people (23%) had still not received a diagnosis after five years

of having elevated blood glucose levels.

The team examined factors associated with an increased delay in

receiving a diagnosis and found that women were likely to wait longer

for a diagnosis. They also found that having a lower HbA1c within the

Type 2 diabetes range, and/or lower BMI, was associated with a delayed

diagnosis. The researchers suggest that this was because these people

may be less likely to experience symptoms or may be less likely to be

given a test to confirm Type 2 diabetes.

The findings build on preliminary data that suggested screening

those aged 40-70 years would ensure a timely diagnosis of Type 2

diabetes, allowing people to get the treatment they need to live well

and avoid serious, potentially life-altering diabetes complications. They

also emphasise the need for increased awareness among healthcare

professionals of the importance of Type 2 diabetes checks in women and

people of a lower bodyweight.

Fat chance?

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of over 40 leading health

organisations, medical royal colleges and campaign groups,

following the total ban on online junk food adverts, confirmed

on 11 May in the Queen's Speech. Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead

at Obesity Health Alliance said, "The commitment to taking

forward restrictions on junk food adverts online is very welcome

news and shows that the Government is serious about putting

our nation's health first by effectively addressing the drivers of

obesity. If implemented fully, with a 9pm watershed on unhealthy

food adverts on TV and restrictions on promotions, these

landmark policies will stem the flood of unhealthy food and drink

adverts, opening up opportunities for more healthier foods to

be advertised."

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