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Recent Discovery A Breakthrough For Texans Concerned About Diabetes?

Oct 12, 2007
British researchers believe they may have found a molecule that can taste sweets. This breakthrough could lead to better lines of treatment for the hundreds of thousands of diabetics who live in Dallas, Houston, Austin and elsewhere in the state of Texas.

You could call it a gut feeling, but scientists carrying out research into diabetes say they have found that a sweet taste receptor, one which senses sugar and sweeteners, is not only present in the human tongue, but also in the human intestine.

Now these researchers are trying to harness its power and utilize it like a dimmer switch. These researchers believe this finding could lead to improved treatment for diabetes, which causes blood sugar levels to become chronically higher than normal.

Professor Soraya Shirazi-Beechey, from the University of Liverpool's Faculty of Veterinary Science, announced the molecule's discovery in the intestine.

Shirazi-Beechey said that the researchers found that the sweet taste receptor and the taste protein, which is called gustducin, are present as taste cells in the intestines. These sweet sensing proteins allow both humans and animals to detect sugar or glucose within the intestine.

The doctor explains, "We discovered that mice missing the gene for either of these proteins were unable to process the production of the intestinal sugar and were therefore unable to regulate the intestinal capacity to absorb dietary sugars."

This is a critical breakthrough because the molecule determines how much sugar the human body absorbs. If scientists can discover how to manipulate this sweet tasting molecule, then they can control how much sugar is absorbed by the intestine. Once it identifies the sweets, it sends signals to another molecule that regulates the levels of sugar taken into the body," she said. "For example, with a dimmer switch you can control the level of light in the room. That's what we are trying to do. We are trying to control the switch, the molecule, to increase or decrease the amount of sugar that is absorbed by the body."

Shirazi-Beechey adds that those who use an artificial sweetener and think they are going to lose weight are sorely mistaken. "Surprisingly we also found that the receptor was able to detect artificial sweeteners in foods and drinks resulting in increased capacity of the intestine to absorb dietary sugars, which would explain why these sweeteners are unsuccessful at helping people lose weight," she explained.

Prof Shirazi-Beechey and her team are currently working on a food supplement that may be able to control the molecule. Tests are being carried out on mice with the study is still in its early stages.

Scientists are also reporting that, besides a possible cure for diabetes, the ability to control this molecule can help those with obesity. As a side note for horse racing fans, it could help racehorses retain a high level of sugar to sustain them for long races.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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