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U researchers evaluate a surgical solution to type 2 diabetes

Can surgery be an effective way to treat type 2 diabetes? Researchers at the University of Minnesota are teaming up with colleagues around the world to find out.

Sayeed Ikramuddin, M.D.

Through a clinical trial, researchers will examine the effectiveness of a type of gastric bypass surgery called Roux-en-Y (RNY) as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. This is the first randomized clinical study of its kind to compare RNY to traditional medical management as a practical solution for dealing with diabetes.

“Surgery is just a tool, clearly, but this tool has the potential to dramatically enhance the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” says Sayeed Ikramuddin, M.D., leader of the study and director of gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. “If used properly with lifestyle modifications, surgery also greatly reduces other risks for these patients, including the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

In a RNY gastric bypass, a surgeon makes the patient’s stomach smaller, causing the feeling of fullness sooner. The stomach is then connected directly to the middle section of the small intestine, which bypasses calorie absorption.

Overweight people with type 2 diabetes often struggle to lose weight because the insulin they take to control their blood glucose levels promotes weight gain.

Previous studies have shown that bariatric surgery has excellent clinical outcomes for mildly to moderately obese people with type 2 diabetes, greatly reducing or often eliminating the need— almost immediately after surgery—for these patients to take medication to control their glucose levels.

Researchers also are using this trial to gain further insight into why RNY is an effective treatment for diabetes by conducting biochemical and genetic analyses of study participants’ blood samples. Researchers hope that if they can identify how the surgery works, that knowledge can be used to help develop drugs that would mimic the effect of surgery.

Besides the University of Minnesota, the study is taking place at Columbia University and National Taiwan University. The University of Minnesota site will recruit 30 study participants.

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