Promising new research has raised the possibility of treating type 2 diabetes without medication. They have shown that short bursts of ultrasound directed at specific groups of nerves in the liver can effectively lower insulin and glucose levels.
In the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, a team of American researchers has demonstrated a unique non-invasive ultrasound method called peripheral focused ultrasound stimulation (pFUS) and It allows directing very specific ultrasound pulses to specific tissues that contain nerve endings.
These short bursts of pFUS directed at this area of the liver successfully reversed the onset of hyperglycemia. The treatment was effective in three different animal models of diabetes: mice, rats and pigs.
The researchers in a report in Nature talk about the problems they have encountered in carrying out the tests:
“This region contains the hepatoportal nerve plexus, which communicates information about glucose and nutrient status to the brain, but it has been difficult to study because its nerve structures are too small to be stimulated separately with implanted electrodes.”
The study found that just three minutes of focused ultrasound a day was enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels in diabetic animals.
At the moment Human studies are underway to find out if this approach translates to animal studies.
But there are other obstacles that hinder the clinical deployment of the technique, beyond showing that it works.
First of all is the specialization that is required to perform this method of ultrasound. Besides They are looking for a way to simplify the process and improve it so that, if it really works in humans, they can do it from home.
“Portable ultrasound probes have minimized the need for manual manipulation of the probe during use, and automated anatomical detection software already exists that enables real-time target tracking using convolution neural network models.”
However, there are some researchers who prefer to be a little more cautious with this advance. A commentary on the research admits that this innovation could ultimately lead to a new type of diabetes treatment, but much more work is needed before reaching that point.
Of course, an initial positive animal study may mean that we are years away from real-world application, but it also means that research continues to bear fruit and that the way to improve people’s quality of life continues to be sought.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism