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Fruit bats can gorge on sugar without harm to their health

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Fruit bats have mechanisms that allow them to eat large amounts of sugar without harm to their health. Genes that regulate cell activity play an important role in this process. Scientists hope that the results of their research will help develop more effective treatments for diabetes in humans.

For humans, a diet high in sugar leads to diabetes, obesity and even cancer. Data from the Ministry of Health show that approximately 2 million people in Poland suffer from diabetes, of which approximately 25 percent do not know about it. As a study published in Nature Communications shows, not all animals need to worry about excessive sugar consumption. Fruit-eating bats live without health problems, eating sweet fruit weighing up to twice their body weight every day.

Adapted to eat sugar

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have analyzed the genetic adaptations that allow frugivorous frugivorous frugivores (Artibeus jamaicensis) eat huge amounts of simple sugars without harm to your health. The team focused on the evolution of the bat pancreas, which controls blood sugar levels, and the kidneys. They compared the obtained data with data on the brown scotoma (Eptesicus fuscus), which feeds exclusively on insects.

The study showed that the pancreas of the fruit bat, compared to the pancreas of the insect-eating bat, had more cells that produce insulin, which tells the body to lower blood sugar levels, and more cells that produce glucagon, the other main hormone that regulates sugar levels. The kidneys of fruit-eating bats had more cells that captured the mineral salts they needed while filtering the blood.

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DNA analysis has shown that parts of the genetic code that control the activity of individual genes have evolved to turn on and off genes that help metabolize sugars. This likely helps fruit bats respond to sudden increases or decreases in blood sugar levels

Leaf-nosed fruit fruit (Artibeus jamaicensis) – photo. illustrativeShutterstock

Superheroes of evolution

As the researchers explained, the biology of the fruit fruit resembled the body of a person with diabetes. This gave them hope that the observations could be used in the treatment of this disease in humans.

“In diabetes, the human body is unable to produce or detect insulin, which leads to problems controlling blood sugar levels,” said Nadav Ahituv, co-author of the paper. – However, fruit bats have a certain genetic system that controls blood sugar levels. We would like to learn from this system to develop better therapies for people.

As one of the most diverse families of mammals, bats have many examples of evolutionarily unusual and efficient solutions, from their immune systems to atypical metabolisms – and more.

“For me, bats are like superheroes, each with incredible superpowers, whether it’s echolocation, flying, sucking blood without clotting, or eating fruit and avoiding diabetes,” Ahituv added.

PAP, University of California – San Francisco

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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