Two recent articles on the treatment of type 2 (age-related) diabetes make for an interesting contrast when read together.
The researchers first isolated the gene variant while studying 2000 diabetes and control patients in Iceland. They found one occurrence of the specific gene variant in 50% more diabetes sufferers than in those free of the disease. They then replicated the findings in tests on people in Denmark and the US.
"This discovery sheds new light on the biological causes of the disease," Stefansson says. "Importantly, virtually all of this risk can be captured by looking at a single-letter change in DNA - ideal for the development of a genetic test for assessing individual risk and developing more personalised and effective prevention strategies.
He says the team is pursuing the development of diagnostics and new drugs for type 2 diabetes.
The study shows, contrary to common belief, that Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be reversed solely through lifestyle changes," according to lead researcher Christian Roberts of University of California, Los Angeles.
"This regimen reversed a clinical diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome in about half the participants who had either of those conditions. However, the regimen may not have reversed damage such as plaque development in the arteries," Roberts said. "However, if Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome continue to be controlled, further damage would likely be minimized and it's plausible that continuing to follow the program long-term may result in reversal of atherosclerosis."
While a regenerative cure for type 2 diabetes would be wonderful, this is a condition that most people could avoid, if they just took the right steps. There are more than enough age-related medical bugbears waiting in the wings of later life without going out of your way to add more; if you'd like to make it into the era of working anti-aging medicine - capable of repairing the cellular damage of aging - with both your savings and health intact, taking good care of yourself in the here and now is an excellent plan.
While we're thinking this way, I should point out another article of interest:
THE Government is backing North-East scientists in their efforts to identify how diet can affect ageing. Research has shown that the right nutrition is not only important for everyday life, but also has a major impact on the way in which humans age.
Scientists at Newcastle University have been asked to find out exactly how foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables are so beneficial in combating toxic agents, and why foods such as those high in fats and sugars are so bad for long-term health.
The Government is funding a new 6.4m research centre at the Tyneside university to carry out the work. To be known as the Centre for Integrated Systems Biology of Ageing and Nutrition (Cisban), the institute will try to extend people's knowledge about food.
Professor Tom Kirkwood, who is an internationally known expert on ageing, heads the institute.
This seems like a generally useful thing to be doing, albeit no great step forward towards longer, healthier lives; it seems hard to imagine any outcome of this sort of research that will be more effective than calorie restriction, for example. As for so much of what goes on in aging research, there is the sneaking suspicion that we could be doing much more productive, directed work aimed at greatly extending the healthy human life span.