The University of Iowa

Novel approach to diabetes care

 

Electromagnetic energy fields bombard our bodies through radio waves, X-rays, wireless internet, and cellular phones. While these energy fields are seemingly everywhere in our lives, not much is known about how they can positively impact human health – until now.

University of Iowa researchers have discovered a safe way to use electromagnetic energy fields to non-invasively manage blood sugar levels. Exposing diabetic mice to a combination of static electric and magnetic fields for a few hours daily normalizes glucose levels in type 2 diabetes, according to their new findings published Oct. 6 in Cell Metabolism.

“The fields are enhancing the body's insulin response and how the body responds to insulin. How that happens is still quite a big mystery,” says Calvin Carter, PhD, one of the study’s lead authors and a postdoc in the lab of senior author Val Sheffield, MD, PhD, professor in the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics and Genomics, and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the UI Carver College of Medicine.

“We're very interested in how the fields are affecting the processing of glucose. We know that the body is also processing glucose in the liver at a higher rate because of these fields.”

Postdoc Calvin Carter and MD/PhD scholar Sunny Huang have discovered a new way to safely manage diabetes using electromagnetic energy fields.This seminal work could have a major impact in diabetes care, particularly for patients whose current treatment plan is cumbersome and involves their checking blood sugar multiple times daily with finger sticks. Mismanaged diabetes over several years eventually impacts the body’s small blood vessels, leading to blindness and neuropathies among other conditions.

“Current treatment regimens are not easy for patients to follow,” says Sunny Huang, co-leader author and an MD/PhD student who’s earning her doctorate in molecular medicine. “If you talk to type 2 diabetic patients, a lot of them will tell you that they try very hard to stick to the regimen. Drugs have side effects and may be easy to forget, especially for those who are busy and elderly. To make matters more challenging, after a few months-to-years, these medications may not work as well requiring higher doses and a greater chance of side effects.”

This study indicates that electromagnetic energy fields alter the balance of oxidants and antioxidants in the liver, thus improving the body’s response to insulin.

“This is kind of a game changer as far as how we think about treating diabetes in general,” says Huang, a recipient of a Ballard and Seashore Dissertation Fellowship from the Graduate College. “I would say that most drugs currently on the market, especially for type 2 diabetes, just treat the symptoms. Electromagnetic fields target the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance. In essence, the fields push the body closer to a normal state of signaling to restore how the body responds to insulin.”

No person in their right mind wants to be beamed with energy all day long, and that was a major consideration in designing the diabetes device. Since mice are nocturnal animals, the researchers treated them with electromagnetic energy fields from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. while they were sleeping. After treatment, the mice had normal glucose levels.

“We found that these fields are just as effective as if we applied them for 24 hours,” Carter says. “Using these fields while these animals sleep leads to the same remarkable effects on blood sugar.”

In addition to the mouse studies, the researchers also treated human liver cells with electromagnetic energy fields for six hours and showed that a marker for insulin sensitivity improved significantly, suggesting that the fields may also produce the same positive anti-diabetic effect in humans.

Carter and Huang are excited to hopefully translate the findings to human patients with type 2 diabetes through a University of Iowa startup, Geminii, Inc. The team is developing a wearable device that will emit these energy fields to help patients manage type 2 diabetes. Patients will wear this device while sleeping and take it off when they are awake.

The World Health Organization considers low energy EMFs safe for human health. The UI study also found no evidence of any adverse side effects in mice.

“This is a safe and completely non-invasive technology that doesn't require pills, injections, or surgical implantation,” Carter says.

The research was funded in large part by philanthropic gifts from the Janice and Herbert Wilson Family Foundation, the Chris and Charles Chessman Foundation, and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust. Funding was also provided by the American Diabetes Association, the Francois Abboud Cardiovascular Center, and the University of Iowa Research Foundation. Researchers on the team were also supported by funding from the National Eye Institute, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Teresa Benoit Diabetes Research Fund, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center.