Mad Cow Disease also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a neuro-degenerative disorder that slowly destroys the brain and spinal cord in cattle. This disease is caused due to mis-folded proteins called prions. In rare cases people develop a fatal human form of Mad Cow Disease called variant Creutzfeldt – Jakob Disease due to the consumption of tainted meat containing these prions.
A research team at The University of Texas recently discovered that Type 2 Diabetes can be transmitted similar to Mad Cow Disease through meat. The presence of abnormal protein deposits was observed in 90% of the patients with Type 2 Diabetes. The scientists identified the deposits to be aggregates of a mis-folded form of protein- Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP), similar to β-amyloid accumulates in Alzheimer’s ; the IAPP clumps are believed to eventually kill pancreatic β-cells that are responsible for insulin production in turn losing the ability to control blood glucose levels.
The researchers injected small amounts of IAPP proteins into mice and found the formation of protein aggregates in the pancreas of these mice. Within weeks, the mice started to exhibit symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes. The prion clumps tend to cause other proteins to bend in wrong ways and stick around forming new clumps.
To get a clear undersanding of prion-like mechanism in humans, researchers cultured pancreatic tissues of humans and genetically altered mice to produce human IAPP. Material from older mice with Type 2 Diabetes was added to both the tissue cultures to form IAPP plaques. These amyloid plaques were then injected into transgenic mice; both of them grew making the transgenic mice develop symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
The study shows that Diabetes may not be contagious but can spread by food or even blood transfusions. However jumping to conclusions at such an early stage of research is not right. The discovery though gives an insight into how Type 2 Diabetes might progress in an individual and is said to have given hope for the development of new treatments.
Article by Srividya.