According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, have diabetes. Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which blood sugars are high over a prolonged period of time and is the result of either the pancreas not manufacturing enough insulin or the body’s cells not responding properly to the produced insulin. Doctors know that a healthy diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco products, and maintaining proper body weight are important factors in prevention but still more needs to be done to unlock better treatments and medications. That’s why researchers are looking at some of our canine friends to help people and dogs.
Recently, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a close look at the interesting subject of diabetes in dogs. We’ve all seen them before: dogs who like to eat and subsequently gain weight. That added weight can render them susceptible to a disease commonly associated with humans: diabetes. Thankfully, just in the same way that animal research has helped human diabetics, dogs are enjoying the results of those studies. If injectable insulin treatments aren’t effective, oral medications like Acarbose, a drug that inhibits carbohydrates’ ability to be converted into simple sugars, can be prescribed. Scientists are even exploring gene therapy to cure diabetic dogs. By injecting functional genes that integrated into the dogs’ genome, the dogs’ systems were able to sense and respond to blood sugar level changes. Gene therapy has been successful in maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more than four years after treatment. Because diabetes is dogs is similar to type 1 diabetes in humans, this treatment has the potential to be a big breakthrough for both dogs and people.