A good sugar for treating diabetes



Approximately 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, with an estimated 40,000 more diagnosed each year. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks β-cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin. Despite the prevalence of type 1 diabetes, there is currently no safe and effective therapy for the disease.


IRP researchers led by Wanjun Chen, M.D., discovered that feeding diabetes-prone mice a sugar called D-mannose, which is abundant in certain fruits and vegetables, prevented them from developing type 1 diabetes. They also found that D-mannose increased the generation of regulatory T cells, a type of immune system cell that is vital to suppressing autoimmune inflammation, a key cause of type 1 diabetes.


The findings suggest that, although some sugars contribute to the development of diabetes, others such as D-mannose may provide a ‘sweet’ treatment for the condition. The work also has important implications for the prevention and treatment of not just type 1 diabetes but other autoimmune diseases as well.


Zhang D, Chia C, Jiao X, Jin W, Kasagi S, Wu R, Konkel JE, Nakatsukasa H, Zanvit P, Goldberg N, Chen Q, Sun L, Chen ZJ, Chen W. (2017). D-mannose induces regulatory T cells and suppresses immunopathology. Nat Med. Sep;23(9):1036-1045. doi: 10.1038/nm.4375. Epub 2017 Jul 24.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, June 13, 2023