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From The Times

February 20, 2010

'Diabetic effect' in dolphins offers new hope for type 2 diabetes cure

(Al Stanzani)
Dolphins also develop type 2 diabetes but can switch their insulin resistance on and off

Mark Henderson, Science editor, in San Diego

Dolphins are the only animals apart from humans to develop a natural form of type 2 diabetes, according to new research. The discovery offers important insights into a disease that is linked to one in 20 deaths.

American scientists have discovered that bottlenosed dolphins show a form of insulin resistance very similar to that seen in human diabetes. Unlike patients with the condition, the marine mammals can turn this state on and off when appropriate, so it is not normally harmful.

The findings indicate that dolphins could provide a valuable animal model for investigating type 2 diabetes, which promises to advance research into new therapies. If researchers can learn how the animals switch off their insulin resistance before it becomes damaging, it could be possible to develop a cure.

Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the US National Marine Mammal Foundation, who led the research, said that it could have profound implications for a disease that affects an estimated 2.75 million adults in Britain.

It suggests that the bottle-nosed dolphin is “an important, natural and long-lived model for insulin resistance and diabetes, a disease that accounts for 5 per cent of human deaths globally”, she told the San Diego conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “It is our hope that this discovery can lead to novel ways to prevent, treat and even cure diabetes in humans while also benefiting dolphin health.”

She emphasised that the research did not mean that dolphins should be used as laboratory animals, as their large brains and high intelligence would make this unethical. Studies of their genetic code and physiology, revealed by blood and urine samples, could nevertheless provide important clues to the biology of diabetes.

Read more here/Leia mais aqui: TimesOnline