Researchers found that dolphins can induce diabetes when there is little food around and turn it off when food is abundant, according to Telegraph.
They believe this is a unique ability in the animal kingdom and results from the dolphin’s need to maintain high blood sugar levels to feed its big brain. They also believe it is an ability that humans once had, but lost through evolution. It is possible that studying dolphins could lead to techniques to re-activate it.
Dr Venn-Watson, who revealed her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, made the discovery while researching dolphins off the San Diego coast.
By taking regular blood samples of the dolphins, she discovered that they could induce type 2 diabetes at times of fasting and then almost immediately turn it off again when food became available.
She believes that the ability dates back to when dolphins reverted from land animals to sea animals 55 million years ago and had to adapt to a protein-only fish diet.
She said there was evidence that humans may have done the same during the last ice age when they too had to rely on a protein rich diet because all carbohydrate rich foods had been frozen. This ability is now “dormant” she said but there is evidence that a fasting gene does still exist in humans.
Dr. Venn-Watson believes that researching the dolphin’s DNA to work out how they are able to turn off diabetes could result in therapies for humans.