Rare Form Of Diabetes Might Call For Alternative Treatment

People with the uncommon, genetic form of diabetes called MODY1 are being miscategorized as having type 2 diabetes - often because the two have so much in common. A new study claims that giving MODY1 patients the treatments intended for type 2 diabetics could be harmful.

According to findings published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers are concerned that patients with MODY1 - a form of maturity onset diabetes of the young - who receive treatments intended for type 2 patients may endure elimination of the insulin-secreting beta cells that help regulate blood sugar levels.

Misdiagnosis can impact patients in a number of different ways, including a need earlier in life for insulin.

"People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are treated with oral medications that make insulin-secreting beta cells very active," said Benjamin Moore, first author of the study. "But the MODY1 pathway we've uncovered shows that stimulating those cells with those drugs can lead to beta cell death. That means these patients can become dependent on insulin injections much sooner."

The MODY1 pathway

The researchers claim that patients with MODY1 account for 3 to 5 percent of all diabetics. Typically these patients move from oral medications to injections of insulin within a decade of diagnosis to ensure blood sugar levels are stable.

However, the study believes that stimulating beta cells via oral medications could increase cellular stress levels - thereby killing them and quickening the patient’s need to undergo insulin injections sooner than they otherwise would have.

The researchers concluded that patients with MODY1 could see improvements with treatments that target a certain pathway they believe is critical to the functioning of insulin-secreting cells. They believe the key is to determine whether patients have the MODY1 form of the disorder before starting treatments.

"It's important to diagnose patients as accurately as possible and to attempt to target the correct pathway," said Moore.

Source: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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