This episode of Science to Save the World is on how ultrasound might be able to affect blood sugar by stimulating sensory nerves in the liver, potentially offering a treatment for diabetes.
Insulin prices have skyrocketed, threatening the lives of many people who are no longer able to afford the drug. Is the day approaching when diabetes will no longer be controlled and managed with blood sugar readings, insulin injections, and drugs?
Physicians could soon have a new treatment option for type 2 diabetes, which affects millions of individuals in the United States alone. The disease results in an abnormally high level of sugar in the bloodstream. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes, and amputations of the lower limbs.
A new study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering examined the effect of peripheral focused ultrasound stimulation (pFUS) on blood sugar levels in study participants. The study was conducted by a team lead by GE Research and included scientists from The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, Yale School of Medicine, and Albany Medical College.
The treatment was effective in three different animal species and does not involve the use of prescription medications. The discovery is a watershed moment in the field of bioelectronic medicine, a field which seeks novel approaches to treat chronic diseases by modulating the nervous system with electronic devices.
Ultrasound-based bioelectronic medicine is a revolutionary, non-invasive stimulation technology that uses ultrasound to activate specific neural circuits within diseased organs. Ultrasound pulses were shown to modulate metabolic sensory nerve pathways in the liver that control glucose levels.
Different metabolic events, such as feeding or fasting, cause sensory neurons in the liver to increase or reduce signals to metabolic control centers in the brain. Ultrasonic pulses were found to affect sensory nerve communication.
In several species and models of type 2 diabetes, the action of ultrasonic pulses was ultimately proven to prevent or reverse the onset of elevated glucose. Raimund Herzog, a Yale endocrinologist who worked on the study, noted that “there are currently very few medicines that lower insulin levels.”
“This would represent an exciting and entirely new addition to the current treatment options for our patients.” The researchers are currently performing human feasibility trials with type 2 diabetic participants, bringing medicine closer to a day when diabetics will manage their disease with a simple, noninvasive electronic procedure.