Researchers believe that disabling the nerves of kidneys in people with type 2 diabetes could fight insulin resistance.
The research from Cedars-Sinai, published in the journal Diabetes, shows that preventing the normal functioning of specific nerves to the kidneys improves the action of insulin in the liver. The procedure is known as renal denervation.
In the study researchers cut the nerves to the kidneys of dogs that had become insulin-resistant after being fed a high-calorie diet.
After the procedure, their livers had a healthy response to insulin, effectively curing the animals of insulin resistance, which causes prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Kidney function also remained normal following the procedure.
Dr Richard Bergma, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and the Alfred Jay Firestein Chair in Diabetes Research said: “For the first time, we have identified the role the kidneys play in regulating blood sugar.
“The kidneys and the liver are signaling each other in order to set healthy levels of sugar in the body. When we didn’t cut those lines of communication between the two organs, the liver overproduced glucose in the animals on a high-calorie diet.”
In healthy humans, the liver works to metabolise and produce glucose (sugar) that is then used by the body for energy. In people with diabetes, insulin does not stabilise production in the liver. Until now the reason for this had been a mystery. This research shows the kidneys and the liver are communicating with each other to stabilise glucose levels.
Malini Iyer, PhD, the lead author of the study conducted at the Bergman Laboratory in the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai said: “To our surprise, we found that renal denervation – cutting nerves to the kidneys – dramatically improved the liver’s sensitivity to insulin.”
More research now needs to take place to determine the most effective method of surgically debilitating the nerves in the kidneys of humans to enable the investigation of a procedure for potential treatment in people with type 2 diabetes.
Previously, renal denervation was hailed as a new hope for treating high blood pressure but human trials proved to be unsuccessful and further trials were halted.
While the initial research on animals shows promise, the true test of its efficacy will be whether the treatment works in humans.

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