Scientists have apparently solved a daunting puzzle about diabetes that could eventually lead to better ways to treat a disease that affects 10 million Americans. Researchers reported last week they have determined that most of the excess sugar in the blood of diabetics and non-diabetics is stored in the muscle as a substance known as glycogen--identifying for the first time the primary location of stored sugar.
The researchers also determined that patients with the most common form of diabetes--non-insulin dependent diabetes--produce glycogen at about half the rate of non-diabetics, with a significant delay in that storage.
The findings should help refocus research to the muscle to determine why patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes fail to dispose of the sugar normally, the researchers said. If the defect could be identified and corrected it would provide a better way to treat the disease, they said. Patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult onset diabetes fail to properly dispose of the sugar, called glucose, left over in their blood after they eat.
"In the past, no one knew where the glucose went," said Robert Shulman, a professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., who published his findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Textbooks usually say that after a meal, glucose is stored in the liver as extra glycogen."