Obesity is the biggest risk factor of Type 2 diabetes, and bariatric surgery is currently an effective treatment. A rise in the levels of particular gut hormones are seen following surgery, and Dr Salem has found that the beneficial effects of the surgery can be replicated using the gut hormones alone in animal models.
During her fellowship, Dr Salem plans to explore the underlying biology of how gut hormones effectively treat diabetes and obesity, to inform the development of combination hormone treatments that could result in diabetes remission and sustained weight loss.
Background to research
Obesity is the biggest risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and bariatric surgery is currently an effective treatment. However, bariatric surgery isn’t available for everyone with Type 2 diabetes. It has been noted that a rise in the levels of particular gut hormones (like GLP-1 and PYY) is seen when the surgery is carried out.
Building on this in previous research, Dr Salem has recreated the weight loss and diabetes remission achieved with surgery by administering a combination of particular gut hormones in an animal model of obesity. She observed increased energy use (which is key to maintaining weight loss) and enhanced insulin release from pancreatic beta cells.
Combination gut hormone therapies are already in the pipeline for treating diabetes and obesity, but the underlying biology of how they work isn’t fully understood. Dr Salem plans to establish the effects of gut hormones on overall energy use and blood glucose levels, using mice that respond differently to the hormones.
She’ll develop a high-resolution imaging technique to assess the effects of the hormones on the function of islets (clusters of insulin-producing beta cells). This will allow Dr Salem to work out whether beneficial effects of the hormones are due to weight loss, improved beta cell function, or both.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
This research aims to improve our understanding of how gut hormone treatments, in combination, work. In doing so, it will inform the development of more effective and safe combination hormone treatments, designed to result in the remission of diabetes and sustained weight loss currently seen with bariatric surgery.