Washington: In what could be hailed as a possible breakthrough, scientists claim to have found evidence which suggests that diabetes may originate in the gut.

A team at Washington University School of Medicine says its research has shown that problems controlling blood sugar -- the hallmark of diabetes -- may begin in the intestines, contrary to long-held theories about causes of the disease.

In their research, the scientists analysed mice that are unable to make fatty acid synthase (FAS) in the intestine.

FAS, an enzyme crucial for the production of lipids, is regulated by insulin, and people with diabetes have defects in FAS. Mice without the enzyme in the intestines develop chronic inflammation in the gut, a powerful predictor of diabetes.

"Diabetes may indeed start in your gut. When people become resistant to insulin, as happens when they gain weight, FAS doesn't work properly, which causes inflammation that in turn can lead to diabetes," said lead author Clay Semenkovich.

Mice with defects in their ability to make the enzyme fatty acid synthase in their intestines develop inflammation, and diabetes, say the scientists who determined in their research what happens in mice that can't make FAS.

"The first striking thing we saw was that the mice began losing weight. They had diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, and when we looked closely at the tissue in the gut, we found a lot of inflammation," Xiaochao Wei, one of the team members, said.

Initially, the researchers thought that the mice became sick because of changes to the mix of microbes that naturally live in the gut, where they help digest food and synthesise vitamins. They then looked more closely at gut microbes in the mice.

"The mice had substantial changes in their gut microbiome. But it wasn't the composition of microbes in the gut that caused the problems," the scientists said in a release.

The findings have been published in the 'Cell Host & Microbe' journal.

(Agencies)