Researchers are close to a cure for diabetes using ultrasound

[Mar. 5, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

Researchers have demonstrated the ability to prevent or reverse the onset of diabetes. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Are we getting closer to the day when diabetes will no longer be monitored and managed with blood sugar tests, insulin injections and drug treatments?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with diabetes has increased from 108 million in 1980 to 650 million in 2022. Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body cannot produce or properly use the insulin, a hormone that regulates the blood. sugar levels.

Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputations. It often leaves people vulnerable to a number of medical co-morbidities and despite an urgent need for treatment, no specific long-lasting therapeutic approach is currently available.

Although there is currently no cure for diabetes, researchers are exploring new ways to manage the disease. A promising development is the use of ultrasound to treat diabetes.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. Sound waves are emitted from a small, hand-held device called a transducer, which is placed on the skin. Sound waves pass through the body and bounce back to the transducer, creating images on a computer screen.

Ultrasound has been used for many years to diagnose and monitor medical conditions such as pregnancy, heart disease and cancer. It is a safe and painless procedure that does not use radiation, making it an attractive option for medical imaging.

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How Ultrasound Can Cure Diabetes

Researchers are studying how ultrasound can be used to treat diabetes by targeting the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin. The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen, making it difficult to access with traditional medical treatments. However, ultrasound can penetrate deep tissue, allowing it to reach the pancreas.

One approach researchers use is called histotripsy. Histotripsy is a technique that uses high intensity ultrasound waves to destroy tissue. In the case of diabetes, researchers use histotripsy to destroy cells in the pancreas that produce glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels. By destroying these cells, the body can better regulate blood sugar, reducing the need for insulin.

Another approach researchers are exploring is called sonoporation. Sonoporation is a technique that uses ultrasound to create tiny pores in cell membranes, allowing drugs or other substances to enter cells more easily. In the case of diabetes, researchers use sonoporation to deliver insulin-producing cells directly to the pancreas. This approach could potentially eliminate the need for daily insulin injections.

Using ultrasound to cure diabetes has several potential benefits. First, it is a non-invasive procedure that does not require surgery, making it safer and less invasive than traditional treatments. Second, it has the potential to be more effective than current treatments because it can target specific pancreatic cells responsible for insulin production. Finally, it could potentially eliminate the need for daily insulin injections, which can be a burden for people with diabetes.

The Challenges of Using Ultrasound to Cure Diabetes

While ultrasound has the potential to be an effective treatment for diabetes, there are several challenges researchers must overcome. One of the challenges is ensuring that the ultrasound waves only target pancreatic cells that need to be destroyed or treated. If the ultrasound waves affect other cells in the body, it could cause unexpected side effects.

Another challenge is ensuring that the ultrasound waves are powerful enough to be effective, but not powerful enough to damage surrounding tissue. Researchers must carefully calibrate ultrasound waves to ensure they are safe and effective.

Finally, researchers must ensure that the ultrasound treatment is durable and does not require frequent repeat treatments. If the treatment is not long lasting, it may not be an effective option for people with diabetes.

Despite the challenges, researchers are optimistic about the potential of using ultrasound to cure diabetes. There have been several promising studies in animal models, and human clinical trials are currently underway.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2019 showed that histotripsy can effectively lower blood sugar in diabetic mice. The researchers used histotripsy to destroy cells in the pancreas that produce glucagon, which improves blood sugar control. The researchers noted that the procedure was safe and caused no adverse effects.

Another study published in the journal Diabetes in 2021 used sonoporation to deliver insulin-producing cells to the pancreas of diabetic pigs. The researchers found that the procedure was effective in restoring blood sugar control in pigs and that the cells remained functional for at least six months.

Clinical trials in humans are also underway. In one study, researchers are using histotripsy to destroy cells in the pancreas that produce glucagon in people with type 1 diabetes. The study is currently recruiting participants and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Ultrasound technology can be used to modulate the body’s nervous system. (CREDIT: General Electric)

In another study, Christopher Puleo, senior biomedical engineer at GE Research and corresponding author of a Nature Biomedical Engineering article, is excited about the progress his team has made to demonstrate a potential new treatment for diabetes, stating, “We have shown that ultrasound can be used to prevent or reverse diabetes in these preclinical studies. We are now in the midst of human feasibility trials with a group of type 2 diabetic subjects, which begins our work towards clinical translation.

“The use of ultrasound could be a game changer in how bioelectronic drugs are used and applied to diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the future,” Puleo added. “Non-pharmaceutical and device-based methods to augment or replace current drug therapies may add new therapeutic choice for physicians and patients in the future.”

Pictured (left to right): Victoria Cotero of GE Research, Senior Bioscience Scientist; Jeffrey Ashe, Principal Electrical Engineer; and Christopher Puleo, Senior Biomedical Engineer, around a prototype of the research lab’s ultrasound modulation device at GE’s research campus in Niskayuna, NY. (CREDIT: General Electric)

Dino Di Carlo, study co-author and professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueloi School of Engineering, said, “Our studies indicate that focused ultrasound activates neurons through ion channels sensitive to mechanical forces. This is a whole new avenue to interface with our body and treat disease.

Following the reported preclinical studies, GE Research and collaborators have engaged in additional preclinical and initial clinical studies that investigate the effects of alternate dosing (i.e. type of ultrasound pulse and duration of the treatment). The team will report on these studies later this year.

Although there are challenges for researchers to overcome, clinical trials in humans are currently underway and researchers are optimistic about the potential of using ultrasound to cure diabetes. If successful, this could be a significant breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes, improving the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

For more scientific news, see our New Innovations section on The bright side of the news.

Note: Material provided by The bright side of the news. Content may be edited for style and length.

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