More than 346 million people have diabetes worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this disease, and it is often the result of physical inactivity and excess body fat.
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and even death. Diabetes is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and is becoming increasingly more prevalent in other countries around the world.
Israel may be a small country, but it’s making great strides in diabetes research. The goal is to find a cure for the disease, but scientists are also looking at better methods for preventing and treating diabetes.
One startup’s solution is micro-pancreases. The startup, which recently won the MIXiii Biomed 2017 pharma startup competition, says they have cured Type 1 diabetes in mice.
Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune disease that ultimately destroys the pancreas’ ability to secrete insulin.
Rather than implanting naked pancreatic cells, which die quickly, the startup is aiming to create a new micro-pancreas. Thus far, they have found success with their method in mice.
The company admits that the technology will not be available to humans for many years, but the solution looks to be promising.
For those interested in a natural treatment approach, Israeli researchers recently discovered a shrub that can aid in the treatment of diabetes.
Known as sharp varthemia, or Chiliadenus ophionoides, this aromatic plant is native to Israel and throughout the Middle East.
Dr. Jonathan Gorelick of the Judea Research and Development Center and his team found that consumption of the plant reduced blood sugar levels and increased sugar absorption in fat cells and skeletal muscles in animals.
The results of the study were published in the October 2011 edition of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Dr. Gorelick and his team are now trying to isolate the active ingredient in the plant to make it a more accessible treatment for diabetic patients.
Researchers from Israel are also partnering with researchers in the U.S. to improve Type 1 diabetes management. The partnership, which was announced in May 2017, aims to optimize therapy options for people with Type 1 diabetes that receive multiple daily insulin injections.
A company called DIAMOND also found a way to help manage diabetes, but their discovery was accidental. The company makes a device called MetaCure, which is an implanted gastric stimulator designed to treat obesity. The device enhances muscle contractions in the stomach to create a greater feeling of fullness. It also stimulates the release of hormones that influence satiety.
The developers of the device also found that it helps control blood sugar levels as well as – or better than – insulin and other diabetes medications.
Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Tel Aviv is helping to pave the way for new diabetes treatments. Researchers have developed an artificial pancreas that could make insulin checking and dosing automatic.
The system is the first of its kind for at-home use. It uses a glucose sensor and insulin pump, which are connected to a computer that determines how much insulin should be released. It also sends out alerts if there is a problem.
The artificial pancreas has been successfully tested on children in Israel, Germany and Slovenia.