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Bugs as drugs for type 2 diabetes

Project summary

The bacteria living in our gut play an important role in our health, and could have a hand in the development of type 2 diabetes. Professor Dumas will study the gut bacteria of people who are at high risk of type 2 diabetes to discover which species of bacteria could be involved in either increase or reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. This could help scientists to develop new treatments that change the makeup of our gut bacteria and help to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

Before you develop type 2 diabetes your body typically stops being able to use the insulin you make properly, known as insulin resistance.

We have millions of bacteria living in our gut, called our gut microbiome, which produce molecules and chemical messengers that can affect our health. One of conditions the microbiome has been linked to is insulin resistance, and so in turn type 2 diabetes.

It’s possible to change the makeup of your gut bacteria, and scientists think that this could give us a way to tackle a root cause of type 2 diabetes. But to work out which parts of the gut microbiome future treatments would need to act on to help prevent type 2 diabetes, we need to understand more about how the microbiome is linked to the condition in the first place. 

Research aims

Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas wants to drill down to find the exact species of bacteria, and the chemical messengers they produce, which are linked to type 2 diabetes.

He will study gut microbes in over 1,000 people who are at very high risk of type 2 diabetes (as they have both non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance) and have donated blood, urine and faeces samples.

The team plans to identify how and why certain bacteria in our gut are linked to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. If they increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, we could aim to keep their levels as low as possible through changes to our diet. If they reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers could use these gut ‘bugs’ to develop new drugs which aim to prevent the condition.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project will help to shed light on how the makeup of our gut microbiome is linked to our risk of type 2 diabetes. This could help scientists to understand if we could use the gut microbiome to find people at high risk of type 2 diabetes, and find new ways to prevent the condition.

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