UConn researchers work to alleviate diabetes by eliminating dysfunctional cells 

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Diabetes patients need to use a variety of tools to constantly monitor and regulate their blood-sugar levels, and because of this the condition greatly affects their everyday life. UConn assistant professor Ming Xu wishes to find alternative treatment methods to make life easier for those with diabetes, namely type II diabetes. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash.

Ming Xu, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging, has worked with Lichao Wang and Binsheng Wang, postdoctoral students in his lab, on research which may help eliminate fat cells linked to metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. 

In an email interview about their research performed on obese mice, Xu said, “We found a small population of cells in the fat could cause type 2 diabetes related metabolic dysfunction. Eliminating these cells by a drug cocktail could make fat tissues from obese individuals healthy.” 

Xu said the primary motivation of the research was the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and anywhere from 90% to 95% of them have type 2 diabetes. 

“The major motivation of our research comes from the fact that a large population of people suffer from type 2 diabetes. We really want to find new treatments to help these people,” Xu said. “I have been interested in metabolism research since I was a graduate student in University of Kansas Medical center in 2006.” 

According to Xu, the research performed by him and his postdoctoral students differs from previous research. “Our study focus on a previously unexplored cell population, and demonstrates that this cell population plays a very important role in diabetes pathology,” Xu said. “Our ongoing research is also investigating the role of these cells in various diseases.” 

Looking to the future, Xu has both short and long term goals. 

“Short term goal is to further examine the role of these cells in different diseases such as frailty, Alzheimer’s disease, flu infection, chronic wound, joint degeneration and others,” Xu said. “Long term goal is to translate these findings to human by conducting a number of clinical trials.” 

Finally, Xu said he wants to stress these results need more research before human use can be approved. 

“Although these preclinical results are very promising, large scale clinical trials are essential before the intervention can be safely used in human,” Xu said. 

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