While diabetes can bring with it a host of problems, one of the most dangerous is the infection that can occur in the hands and feet of people with uncontrolled diabetes. High blood sugar can start a process that ends in the destruction of the body's infection-controllers. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have been investigating this problem in hopes of finding more effective ways to treat these infections.
The researchers found that as blood sugar rises, it begins to release harmful molecules called dicarbonyls, which result from the breakdown of glucose. These dicarbonyls interfere with beta-defensins (which are antimicrobial peptides) by making it harder for them to fend off inflammation and infection. In their research, they found that beta-defensins exposed to dicarbonyls had a much harder time fighting off bacteria. In fact, in a petri dish, the exposed beta-defensin's ability to kill bacteria dropped by 50%.
Not only do healthy beta-defensins fight off invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, they also warn the immune system that there's a problem. But again, when they were exposed to dicarbonyls, their ability to do this job dropped significantly.
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These findings could help in the future development of new antimicrobial peptide treatments to help supplement the beta-defensins that are being blocked by dicarbonyls. Researcher Janna Kiselar, PhD, notes, "Our in vitro findings alone could have a significant impact on the development of more effective antimicrobial treatment strategies for patients with uncontrolled diabetes. The findings also emphasize the importance of lowering high blood sugar and keeping it under control."
The researchers are hoping to continue their investigations in animal models and human tissue. They also want to know if dicarbonyl is affecting other types of cells in addition to the beta-defensins. Researcher Wesley Williams, PhD, notes, "The body does have defense mechanisms against molecules such as dicarbonyl, but with a chronic disease such as diabetes, the effectiveness of these defense mechanisms responsible for keeping dicarbonyl levels under control may be overwhelmed. The result may be dicarbonyl accumulation that could eventually overwhelm the ability of beta-defensins to effectively control inflammation and infection."
While further research is needed to potentially lead to a treatment option for these infections, these findings are an important reminder that it's vital to keep blood sugar in check. If you or a loved one has diabetes, be sure you're taking the steps I outline in my book The Type-2 Diabetes Breakthrough. Following my advice can help you beat diabetes and avoid these terrible health problems. These infections can be very dangerous, and the effort it takes to avoid them is certainly worth it.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD