DIABETES may be spread through meat or blood transfusions as a result of misshapen protein “seeds”, a leading scientist has suggested.
The protein seeds are similar to those which carry mad cow disease from cattle to humans.
Experiments in genetically modified mice show that injecting them with the toxic clusters led to them developing all the symptoms of type 2 diabetes within weeks.
Similar chemical signatures were also observed when the proteins were added to healthy human pancreatic tissue in a dish, according to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Experts said it was not at all clear that the same mechanisms would work in humans and that there is as yet no good evidence that the disease is contagious.
The senior author of the study, Professor Claudio Soto, said his team was investigating the possibility that type 2 diabetes could be acquired by ingesting “rogue” proteins in animal products.
He said: “I don’t want to scare anyone, but I can see this happening in diabetes more easily than it happens in brain diseases, because in brain diseases the spread is limited by the blood-brain barrier.
“If one disease has the potential to be transmitted in this manner, it is diabetes.”