New Way to Combat Muscle Loss Due to Type 1 Diabetes

by Matt Weik

Those suffering from Type 1 diabetes know first-hand the effects the disease has on skeletal muscle. Studies have shown that due to the loss of muscle stem cells from the early stages of the disease, that down the road almost all those suffering will eventually find themselves losing some muscle. Researchers wanted to figure out if there is a way to stop or prevent this from happening. The following study shows what took place and how they plan on sparing muscle loss.

Being that there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, McMaster University researchers were trying to better understand what happens inside the body that causes the deterioration of skeletal muscle. This autoimmune disease generally is found in individuals who are in the early years of childhood and adolescence. In order to treat the disease, the individual will need to give themselves insulin injections throughout the rest of their life in order to manage their blood glucose levels. Usually a parent or guardian needs to give the child injections until they are responsible enough or know how and are able to inject themselves with insulin without potentially doing harm to their body.

One researcher stated that “through research with both mice and humans, we’ve shown that Type 1 diabetes negatively impacts muscle, and by improving muscle health we can reduce blood sugar levels and improve the response to insulin.” The team of researchers noticed that in order to preserve muscle, they would need to reduce the hormone myostatin which is naturally secreted by the body. Reduce myostatin, reduce muscle loss. Interestingly enough, through their research they noticed that by reducing myostatin, the muscle was much more sensitive to insulin and better able to deal with glucose even without insulin being injected and additionally showed an overall decrease in blood sugar levels.

From this research they have stated that there are pharmaceutical companies who are very close to releasing a drug with minimal side effects that has the ability to inhibit myostatin. Researchers are not dismissing the fact that those with Type 1 diabetes should be exercising in order to help maintain their lean muscle mass. One of the researchers even said, “While my advice would be to exercise, our work may provide therapeutic options for those who may be unable to, or unable to at intensities needed to see therapeutic benefit.”

On average, research has shown that those suffering from Type 1 diabetes have a lifespan around 15 years shorter than those without the disease. Generally, this is due to complications from the disease such as kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack. A researcher went on to say, “Our findings provide solid evidence that Type 1 diabetes negatively affects muscle and that correcting these changes would improve our physical abilities and our whole body metabolism, ultimately increasing the healthy lifespan of those suffering from this chronic disease.” At the end of the day, it seems like help is on the way for those suffering from muscle loss from this disease. If they are able to reduce myostatin through these new pharmaceutical drugs soon to be released, they will be able to preserve muscle and help regulate blood sugar.

1. Samantha K. Coleman, Irena A. Rebalka, Donna M. D’Souza, Namita Deodhare, Eric M. Desjardins, Thomas J. Hawke. Myostatin inhibition therapy for insulin-deficient type 1 diabetes. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 32495 DOI: 10.1038/srep32495

2. Donna M. D’Souza, Sarah Zhou, Irena A. Rebalka, Blair MacDonald, Jasmin Moradi, Matthew P. Krause, Dhuha Al-Sajee, Zubin Punthakee, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Thomas J. Hawke. Decreased Satellite Cell Number and Function in Humans and Mice With Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is the Result of Altered Notch Signaling. Diabetes, 2016; db151577 DOI: 10.2337/db15-1577