San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
A New Throwing Stick for Type 2?
I remember the first time I saw a throwing stick attached to a spear. The stick works as an additional lever that aids the primary lever—the arm—in hurling the spear. Ancient man’s invention of it made it possible to toss spears with greater force over longer distances.
The throwing stick is an example of reaching a goal by indirection. The original goal was “Get meat.” The secondary goal was “Get more meat, more easily.”
I thought of that the other day when I came across a news item about a research team at UC San Diego that has discovered a way to control the actions of the protein that regulates our biological clocks.
The protein, cryptochrome, tells the body when to do certain things. One of those things is signaling the liver to produce glucose—an excess of which is a curse for us Type 2s.
Now cryptochrome goes about its business with no interference, causing the liver to turn on and turn off glucose production according to the time of day. When we’re up and active, our glucose spigot gushes. When we go to sleep and enter a fasting mode, cryptochrome orders the liver to stand down.
What if you could control cryptochrome and make it act on the liver the way you want it to? The UC scientists’ original intent was to delve more deeply into cryptochrome’s workings. But as they did, they discovered a molecule, which they dubbed KL001, that can control cryptochrome—at least in lab mice.
You can see where this could go. If we can find a way to fine-tune KL001’s effects, we can manipulate the liver via cryptochrome to regulate exactly when it produces glucose and how much.
Right now metformin is the main drug in the Type 2 apothecary for regulating the liver’s output. But compared to metformin, using a KL001-based drug would be like the difference between using a heavy-duty exterior house painting brush and fine size 2 camel’s hair brush to touch up a portrait.
Two good things about this: One, if all goes well, we might someday see the spear of cryptochrome being launched or directed by the throwing stick of KL001. It’s nice to think about the sophisticated new type 2 therapies that will be coming down the pike.
The other is knowing that there’s often a wonderful element of chance and serendipity that accompanies scientific research. You go looking for one thing and unexpectedly find an entirely different thing that is totally useful.