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Obesity operations a mystery for diabetes researchers

01 February 2012

Within just a few days of having obesity surgery, the majority of patients cease to suffer from type 2 diabetes. At the Lund University Diabetes Centre, a research group is trying to get to grips with the apparently inexplicable connection. It is hoped that in the long run a cure could be developed.

“It is thrilling that the patients recover so quickly. This fact is so clear that it cannot be ignored”, says Nils Wierup, a Reader in Experimental Endocrinology.

Dr Wierup heads a research group made up of diabetes researchers, experts in vascular medicine and bacteriologists. They are hoping to identify what mechanisms cause the patients to recover. The research will partly be based on analysis of samples taken from patients before and after they undergo a gastric bypass. Tests on pigs have also been carried out as part of the study.

Changes to the bacteria flora in the gut, to the effects of the hormones in the gut or to the blood supply to the gut are theories which the research group currently suspects may lead to a solution to the mystery. They hope to be able to find out what happens in conjunction with the operation and then mimic the effect with a drug.

“Previously, recovery from diabetes has been explained by weight loss or changes in diet. But in these cases, there are clearly other factors influencing the process because it happens so quickly”, says Nils Wierup.

He stresses that other operations which produce the same weight loss effect have been seen to have a much slower and less pronounced effect on type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that around 300 000 people in Sweden have the disease, which is becoming increasingly common.