A team of scientists from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has used genetically engineered muscle tissue to cure mice of type 2 diabetes.

Muscle cells are among the main targets of insulin, which is supposed to absorb sugar from the blood. However, in type 2 diabetics, this ability is reduced.

Up until now, restoring the metabolic activity of muscles has just been an unexplored idea. Now, however, the theory has been proven – thanks to Professor Shulamit Levenberg, Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion and doctoral student Rita Beckerman.

Isolating the muscle cells and engineering them to be metabolically functional before transporting them back into the abdomen of the diabetic mice led to the now-healthy cells absorbing sugar correctly and improved blood sugar levels – both in the abdominal muscles and elsewhere in the body.

The mice remained cured of diabetes for the entire four-month period which they were observed.

Professor Levenberg said: “These cells worked hard and absorbed glucose, and also secreted factors that systematically affected the metabolism of the mice.
“The approach can be used to rescue mice from their diabetic situation, and now we hope to be able to use it in the future as a treatment for humans.”

“It’s such a novel approach that we really didn’t know what to expect, but we were extremely happy with the result”, Beckerman added.

“This could potentially, in the future, give human patients with Type 2 diabetes the possibility of having an implant and then going for a few months without taking any medications.”
The research is published in the peer-reviewed Science Advances journal.

Diabetes currently affects 4.7 million people in the UK, according to Diabetes UK – 90% of which will have type 2. Type 2 diabetes can lead to long-term complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.