Kidney Cells Engineered To Lower Glucose When Caffeine Is Present

A team of researchers from Switzerland and France has engineered embryonic kidney cells to produce insulin so as to reduce glucose levels, the engineering works when the embryonic kidney cells are exposed to caffeine in mouse models. The paper was published in the journal Nature.

People with diabetes have higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood, which can lead to a host of health problems.  In type I diabetes the body can’t produce enough insulin so that the glucose goes up. In type II diabetes the body cells are insensitive to insulin.  The current treatments are either taking drugs that make cells more sensitive to insulin, or injection of insulin to make more of it available.

In this new effort, the researchers have developed a new way to get more insulin into the body. They engineered embryonic kidney cells to produce insulin, but only when they were exposed to caffeine. The engineered cells were covered with a material that protected them from the immune system and were then put into a device that was implanted into the abdomens of mice that had been engineered to have diabetes. The researchers note that glucose levels tend to spike after people (and mice) eat sugar or food material that the body converts to sucrose. Thus, the optimal time for giving the mice caffeine would be after eating. The researchers report that they were able to attain relatively stable glucose levels in the mice by varying the amount of caffeine they were given after eating.

The team chose caffeine because it has been so extensively studied and because the majority of people consume caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and soft drinks. They point out that caffeine is also a substance that appears very rarely in other foods, making its ingestion easy to regulate.

The researchers also mentioned that putting such a device on human being is still a long way off. 


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