Editors' ChoiceMetabolism

Treating diabetes with electromagnetic fields

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Science Translational Medicine  21 Oct 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 566, eabe9220
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abe9220

Abstract

Exposure to electromagnetic fields increases insulin sensitivity in diabetic mice, with altered redox homeostasis mediated by mitochondrial superoxide.

Life has evolved on Earth over billions of years in the presence of weak electromagnetic fields (EMFs). For example, birds are known to sense Earth’s EMF during migration. EMFs are also used ubiquitously in modern telecommunications. However, very little is known about how they affect biology at a cellular level.

Aberrant redox homeostasis is known to contribute to the development of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. In this study, Carter et al. demonstrated a quantum biological phenomenon whereby a combination of magnetostatic and electrostatic fields (sBE) ameliorated hyperglycaemia and enhances insulin sensitivity in three different mouse models of type 2 diabetes: Bardet-Biedl syndrome, leptin receptor–deficient, and high-fat diet (HFD) mice. These effects appeared rapidly, within 3 days of exposure, without side effects.

This enhancement of insulin sensitivity occurred due to altered redox homeostasis, mediated primarily by the liver mitochondrial superoxide O2. Treatment of HFD mice with superoxide scavenger or overexpression of superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) in liver both attenuated the insulin-sensitizing effects of sBE. In addition, human liver cells treated with sBE for 6 hours demonstrated an increase in glycogen, a surrogate marker for insulin sensitivity, suggesting a similar effect in humans.

Diabetes is a pandemic of major public health importance that cannot be disputed. Being the single biggest endocrine driver for global disease burden, this discovery might prove to be a game-changer. It paves the way for a new class of noninvasive treatment for diabetic patients and may appeal to patients who struggle with cumbersome insulin injection regimes. However, it remains to be seen whether sBE produce similar effects in larger animals physiologically similar to humans. More importantly, the clinical safety of long-term exposure to low-energy EMF remains unclear.

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