Researchers Are Working on a New Way to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

The discovery, made by scientists at Cambridge's Forsyth Institute, may lead to new medications for the disease.

Thomas Van Dyke TKTKT. Photo provided to

Thomas E. Van Dyke led a new study on managing inflammation in type 2 diabetes. Photo provided to

Diabetes affects more than 29 million Americans, according to the CDC. Now, thanks to research from the Cambridge-based Forsyth Institute, doctors may be one step closer to figuring out how to manage its symptoms.

In a new study, scientists discovered that resolvin, a compound made by the body from dietary omega-3 fatty acids, may play an important role in regulating inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes. The study, recently published in the journal Infection and Immunity, is part of the nonprofit’s ongoing effort to understand the relationship between type 2 diabetes and periodontal disease, which—according to the CDC—is characterized by inflammation of the gums.

“Resolvins are the body’s natural mechanism for turning off inflammation,” says Thomas E. Van Dyke, the study’s lead researcher and the vice president of clinical and translational research at the institute. “What we’re showing in this study is that when you have diabetes, you don’t respond as well to resolvins anymore. When you over-express the receptor for [a specific resolvin known as] RvE1, you are able to rescue the response.”

In other words, Van Dyke says, researchers found that amping up the body’s response to the compound helps restore its natural ability to manage inflammation. Researchers made this discovery after experimenting with several groups of mice, some of which were genetically modified to exhibit symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The experiment also included wild-type mice and “transgenic” ones, which Van Dyke says were engineered for over-expression of the resolvin-receptor gene. The researchers say that mice were necessary in the study because the drugs used on them are not yet approved for humans.

Van Dyke says that this investigation may be the first evidence of the compound’s potential usefulness in the management of  type 2 diabetes, adding that the results could have significant implications for the development of new medications. It could lead to improved treatment for diabetics, and for those living with other inflammatory conditions such as Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, periodontal disease, and cardiovascular disease, he says.

“The take-home message is that uncontrolled inflammation is a very large part of many diseases,” Van Dyke says. “As we learn to appreciate that in more detail, it gives us more clues on how to pharmacologically approach the problem.”

Still, future research will be needed to investigate what role resolvin and compounds like it will play when it comes to type 2 diabetes.

“One of the things we don’t know in humans is if the lack of response is due to less production of resolvin molecules or if there’s something wrong with response to the molecules,” Van Dyke says. “Further downstream we are looking at getting these things into the marketplace as drugs so people who have type 2 diabetes and periodontal disease can be treated to control systemic inflammation and reduce complications.”