Early Loss of Muscle Stem Cells Linked to Diabetes-related Deterioration

New study may have found a way to prevent the loss of physical strength in type 1 diabetes patients.

People with type 1 diabetes can experience several disease-related complications, such as muscle deterioration. But in a pair of new studies published in Diabetes and Scientific Reports, researchers discovered that the loss of muscle stem cells early on in the disease is likely a key to muscle deterioration that occurs later on.

The largest insulin-sensitive organ in the body is the skeletal muscle. The loss of this organ impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and respond to insulin over time.

Insulin resistance develops in type 1 diabetes patients, and is a major contributor to other complications, such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. One way to prevent the loss of skeletal muscle in diabetes is to reduce myostatin.

“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,” said senior author of both studies Thomas Hawke.

The results of the study showed that reducing a natural secreted hormone that represses muscle growth, called myostatin, could prevent the loss of skeletal muscle in diabetes. Researchers found that even when there was no insulin, blood sugar levels dropped significantly, causing the muscles to become much more insulin sensitive.

“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,” Hawke said.

Currently there are several pharmaceutical companies that are in late-stage clinical trials of new inhibitor drugs that are highly effective inhibiting myostatin with fewer adverse side effects. Additionally, authors noted that individuals living with type 1 diabetes could have a shortened life span by as much as 15 years, because of diabetes-related complications.

“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,” Hawke said.