Researchers at University of Haifa have discovered a substance derived from yeast, called Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), that may develop into an oral treatment for diabetes and its complications.
Diabetes has been recognized as a major global health problem and affects 5-10 pct of the population in developed countries, while has recently been proclaimed as an "epidemic" in developing countries.
It is a chronic illness with no cure and can lead to kidney failure, heart problems, strokes or blindness, as well as other complications.
Lead researcher Dr. Nitsa Mirsky said that the substance has been effectively tested on rats and the next step is to assess its efficiency in humans.
"The research is now at the stage where the substance has been successfully tested on diabetic rats and was found to reduce sugar and lipids in the blood of the treated animals. The next stage of the research is to evaluate GTF efficacy in humans," Mirsky said.
About 50 pct of diabetes patients are treated with injected insulin, while the rest are treated with oral medications that tend to be more difficult to regulate and often have side effects.
Dr. Mirsky disclosed a number of problems related to insulin treatment.
Insulin is not always effective owing to gradual development of hormone resistance.
Further problems suggests that insulin doses are not necessarily synchronized with the patient's physical activities or eating intervals, and large doses of insulin injected before eating, might cause a sudden fall in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that can ultimately result in a diabetic coma and death.
The research conducted on two levels, diabetic rats and the molecular-cell level the results showed that GTF acted similarly to insulin in the rats and lowered the level of glucose, LDL-cholesterol, (the "bad" cholesterol), and raising the level of HDL-cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol).
If GTF is given at the initial stages of the disease, it can prevent or delay renal complications, help prevent cataracts and retinal damage and improves the effectiveness of injected insulin.
However, the researchers suggested that further research is required so as to find a combined regimen of insulin and GTF as a potential treatment for diabetes.