CHICAGO, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- A research in mice indicates that a natural sugar called trehalose blocks glucose from the liver and activates a gene that boosts insulin sensitivity, reducing the chance of developing diabetes.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis also found that activating the gene also triggers an increase in calories burned, reduces fat accumulation and weight gain, and lessens measures of fats and cholesterol in the blood.
Studying the genes switched on in the livers of mice given trehalose, the researchers were intrigued by Aloxe3, which typically is known for helping the skin maintain proper hydration in the body and had not been thought to have any role in the liver.
They found that activating Aloxe3 in the mice given trehalose improves insulin sensitivity in a way that is similar to how thiazolidinediones work. Studying healthy mice given only water over a 48-hour period, they found that fasting, likewise, activates Aloxe3 in the liver. This activation could boost insulin sensitivity in the same way.
"We learned that this gene, Aloxe3, improves insulin sensitivity in the same way that common diabetes drugs called thiazolidinediones improve insulin sensitivity," said Brian DeBosch, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university. "And we showed that Aloxe3 activation in the liver is triggered by both trehalose and by fasting, possibly for the same reason: depriving the liver of glucose."
The researchers found that Aloxe3 in the liver, whether activated by fasting or trehalose, leads the mice not only to make better use of insulin, but to increase calorie burning, raise body temperature, reduce weight gain and fat accumulation including fat deposits in the liver, and lessen measures of fats and cholesterol in the blood.
Further, they found that mice fed an obesity-inducing diet and mice that eat freely and are genetically prone to obesity are protected from metabolic disease if given trehalose in their drinking water.
The study suggests a new way of treating metabolic syndrome, a cluster of related conditions that includes obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease.
As trehalose may encounter enzymes in the digestive tract that break it apart, releasing its two glucose molecules, which would be counterproductive, the researchers have investigated a similar sugar called lactotrehalose, which they found has the same beneficial effects from triggering Aloxe3 but does not break apart as easily.
The study was published Aug. 23 in JCI Insight.