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Diabetes cure in dolphins

A trick dolphins use to keep their big brains fed with energy could lead to a cure for diabetes, say scientists.

Experts have discovered that bottlenose dolphins can turn a diabetic-like state on and off as needed to maintain their blood sugar levels.

They believe a now-dormant genetic mechanism of the same type may have once evolved in people.

In both dolphins and ancient humans it would ensure that during lean times enough energy-giving sugar was always on hand to meet the demands of a large power-hungry brain.

Dr Stephanie Venn-Watson, director of clinical research at the National Marine Mammal Association, said: "If dolphins have a fasting switch that can turn diabetes on and off, identifying and controlling such a switch in humans could lead to a cure for Type-2 diabetes."

Humans get much of their glucose from carbohydrates, but when carbohydrates are absent from the diet, levels of blood sugar can easily fall.

Bottlenose dolphins get around the problem by making themselves insulin-resistant between meals. Insulin, which regulates the way glucose is taken up and stored, is then less able to lower blood sugar levels.

hnews@herald.ie


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