WASHINGTON -- In a discovery that may lead to new therapies for type 2 diabetes, researchers have solved a decades-old mystery of why high doses of aspirin lower blood sugar levels and make cells more sensitive to insulin.
In 1876, a doctor discovered that his diabetic patients improved with doses of an aspirin-like drug. He reported the result, but there was little interest by others.
In 1901 and later in the 1950s, still other doctors also found that diabetics seemed to get better for a time on large doses of aspirin. But nobody knew why this happened and there was no follow up.
Until now. Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, report Friday in the journal Science that in studies using diabetic mice they have found that high doses of aspirin block the action of an enzyme called ikB kinase Beta, or ikkBeta, and that this, in turn, causes the body to be more sensitive to insulin. The result is that blood sugar levels drop.
"This study helps us understand what causes insulin insensitivity due to obesity and a high fat diet," said Dr. Steven E. Shoelson, a researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Center and the Harvard Medical School in Boston and lead author of the study.
Although aspirin can have some effect against diabetes over time, Shoelson said the dosage required is dangerous. To lower blood sugar in a diabetic, he said, would require 6-8 grams of aspirin for long periods of time. Two regular aspirin tablets are about 0.65 grams.
High doses of aspirin can cause serious side effects.
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