Could Hot-Wiring Help Beat Diabetes? Doctors Believe Procedure will Improve the way the body processes sugar
Roger Dobson | April 1, 2014.
Doctors are using a tiny wire to burn nerves to the kidneys
Hot-wiring the kidneys may be a new way to tackle type 2 diabetes. Doctors are using a tiny wire to burn nerves to the kidneys that they believe will improve the way sugar is processed by the body.
People with type 2 diabetes either don't produce enough insulin - the hormone that mops up sugar from the blood - or their body's cells don't react to insulin properly. As a result, their blood sugar levels rise.
The new procedure involves destroying part of the sympathetic nervous system, which runs from the spinal cord to the organs and is involved in the fight-or-flight response - when danger threatens, it makes the heart beat faster, for example. It also has a key role in regulating blood pressure.
People with high blood pressure that does not respond to medication have been shown to have higher levels of sympathetic nervous system activity than normal. One theory is that this is because of faulty signals traveling between the brain and kidneys along with the renal nerves. Destroying these nerves - a procedure known as renal denervation - is being used to treat patients with this condition.
But a pilot study also showed that the procedure not only lowered blood pressure but improved the effectiveness of insulin.
It is recognized that the sympathetic nervous system affects the use of insulin by the body. Blocking the sympathetic nervous system with a drug called moxonidine has been shown to improve the action of insulin and increase the amount of glucose taken in by cells.
Now, in a trial at the University of Monash in Australia, renal denervation is being tested to see if it has the same effect. During the 40-minute procedure, carried out without a general anesthetic, a catheter or tube is inserted into the main artery in the groin and pushed up to the kidneys.
Once in place, a radio-frequency generator, which creates heat and energy, warms up a wire inside the catheter. This hot wire is placed against the renal nerves and the heat destroys them.