BYU professor establishes link between managing diabetes and exercise

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    By SARA GILES

    Every day Larry McTerr, a Type II diabetic, must take insulin in order to allow his body to function. But with a recent research breakthrough from a BYU professor, his daily routine may become significantly easier.

    Will Winder, BYU professor of zoology, recently discovered the reason why physical exercise helps muscles take in glucose. This discovery could help McTerr and many others to change their lives by balancing out the amount of exercise they do and insulin they need to take.

    The particular enzyme that Winder studied is the AMP-activated kinase (AMPK). This enzyme is normally activated when muscles contract. Winder provided the missing link to understanding why sometimes exercise helps the absorption of glucose into the muscles.

    Winder said he encourages exercise as a way to help reduce the chances of getting Type II diabetes.

    If the AMPK-enzyme, which increases the release of glucose, can be made into a drug for humans, the steep cost should give encouragement for patients to try to exercise more as a first course of action. Currently the drug is still in experimental stages and has not been tried on humans.

    “It would take about $700 of this drug to do what one hour of exercise can do,” Winder said.

    He said students are affecting their future chances of getting Type II by the exercise patterns they are developing now.

    “It’s what students are doing now in their 20s that affects the receptiveness of diabetes that they will find out about in their 30s,” Winder said.

    McTerr said he believes that every Type II diabetic will be able to apply this to help manage their lives. He said the hardest thing for diabetics is to manage their lives with the proper amount of insulin matching the amount or lack of effort that they do.

    “Many times, I don’t know what my job load will be. Sometimes I take too much medication and not enough food. This will help me out tremendously,” McTerr said.

    McTerr also said this discovery will be beneficial to diabetics who are wheelchair bound or can’t exercise.

    Winder said his work could also lead to a possible drug to treat obesity, because he has found that the AMPK enzyme stimulates the fat burning process at the same time it triggers glucose absorption according to a press release.

    Winder’s research in the effects of AMPK is funded by a five-year, $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH).

    He is currently in his third year of the grant period and is optimistic about the advances his team has been making.

    “One always hopes that work funded by the NIH will yield something that will benefit the people paying the bill,” Winder said in reference to tax payers. “It’s really quite gratifying to see our work go in this direction, where it might be applied to the treatment of diabetics.”

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