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Less Intestines, Less Diabetes

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By surgically removing a portion of the small intestines of a group of rats with type-1 diabetes, researchers were able to greatly lessen some of the disease’s effects. The surgery, which eliminated the upper portion of the digestive tract, activated what are called “novel sensing mechanisms” lower down, and improved the rats' ability to regulate their blood sugar.

At the University of Toronto, Tony Lam and his assistant Danna Breen performed “duodenal-jejunal” bypass surgery -- taking out most of the rats’ upper intestine and part of the middle section. The jejunum is below the duodenum (but less commonly-known, despite having a way better name .) Without a duodenum or a proximal jejunum, the rats’ digestion skipped the upper intestine, which appeared to trigger a response that targeted the rats’ blood sugar.

According to the resulting study published in the journal Nature Medicine, when doctors Lam and Breen removed the top or “proximal” half of the jejunum, the latter or distal jejunum revealed it “could sense glucose” and “signal to the brain to let the liver know that it must lower glucose production.”

Lowering the amount of glucose pumped out by the liver allowed the diabetic rats’ bodies to regulate their blood sugar better.

Doctors Lam and Breen claim this to be the first time surgery has successfully caused a rapid drop in glucose production, at least among “non-obese type 1 uncontrolled diabetic rats.” Which is a roundabout way of saying, all other things being equal, the surgery helped ease the diabetes.