Published on 21 August 2014

Recent newspaper reports that a single jab cure for diabetes could soon be available have been labelled “unlikely” by the NHS, although the protein injections could improve blood glucose control for people with type 1 diabetes.

A study that found improved insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in mice after injecting them with the protein fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF1) produced no side effects, however the same outcome was not expected for humans.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, New York University School of Medicine, and the University of California, San Diego, in the US, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and the Westmead Millennium Institute and the University of Sydney in Australia.

Ronald M. Evans, Director of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and report author, said: "Controlling glucose is a dominant problem in our society and FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way."

“There are many questions that emerge from this work and the avenues for investigating FGF1 in diabetes and metabolism are now wide open.

"We want to move this to people by developing a new generation of FGF1 variants that solely affect glucose and not cell growth," he says. "If we can find the perfect variation, I think we will have on our hands a very new, very effective tool for glucose control."

The NHS Behind The Headlines response to the report concluded: “This exciting study has shown potential for FGF1 to become a treatment for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The mouse studies have shown that for type 2 diabetes, FGF1 reduces blood glucose levels in a sustained manner, and its prolonged use improves insulin sensitivity.

“There is also potential for FGF1 to improve blood glucose control for type 1 diabetes, though it would not replace the requirement for insulin injections.

“The researchers have also shown they can modify FGF1 so it doesn't cause unwanted cell division in laboratory experiments.

“But further investigations are needed to see whether this version only has an effect on blood glucose levels or whether it retains its other known functions, such as new blood vessel formation, which may potentially cause side effects.

“Encouragingly, the researchers did not find any side effects with the treatment, but it was only given over a maximum of 35 days.

“Further research will be required before human trials are conducted, but this is a promising new avenue of study.

“Even if any drug that stems from this research did prove to be effective and safe in humans, it is unlikely it would lead to a permanent cure for diabetes. It is more likely it would become a maintenance treatment a person would need to take long term on a regular basis.”

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