Diabetics, Controlling Sugar Levels By Drinking Coffee
Diabetics number in the hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Most diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2. In type 2 diabetes, cells lose their ability to use insulin to convert glucose, (blood sugar), into energy.
There are approximately 23 million diabetes cases in the United States, and the estimated annual cost of this disease exceeds $245 billion.
Right now, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetic patients have to monitor blood glucose levels after every meal and immediately respond to any increases with the prescribed treatment.
Diabetics: Controlling Sugar Levels With Coffee?
If someone told you that diabetics could one day control their glucose levels with coffee, you might call them nuts. Well, that day is here.
Scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have tested a synthetic gene circuit in mice that responds to caffeine in beverage form. The circuit releases a glucose compound that treats type 2 diabetes.
Results showed that coffee reduced blood glucose levels as it activated the synthetic gene circuit.
Diabetics: What Is Synthetic Biology?
Synthetic biology is a new technology that combines engineering and biology and is the foundation for today’s cutting edge treatments in cancer and diabetes. These synthetic genes and circuits reprogram cells to directly accept the targeted treatments.
One example is the development of “molecular switches” that can control immune cells. These switches are now used in cancer treatments to make them safer and more precise.
The Zurich scientists describe how they created fully synthetic receptors that sense caffeine equal to the amounts you have in a typical cup of coffee.
Receptors are proteins that sit on the surface of cells and react only when they encounter a specific molecule, much like a unique key inserted into a lock. This act of binding triggers a specific reaction inside the cell.
Here, in this diabetes treatment, the trigger is caffeine and the reaction is the production of synthetic human glucose.
The study authors call this genetic circuit a “caffeine-stimulated advanced regulator (C-STAR).”
C-STAR cells received various doses of caffeine in the laboratory, including commercial brands of beverages. They also implanted the cells into mice that were bred to develop type 2 diabetes.
Diabetics: Test Results
In both tests, all doses of caffeine were able to reduce blood glucose levels.
All treated mice showed significantly lower glucose levels.