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March 28, 2017
In a groundbreaking study, researchers found that they were able to effectively reverse type 2 diabetes symptoms in mice by administering a daily oral drug with no adverse side effects.Millions of people worldwide suffer from diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes—which accounts for nearly 90% of all documented cases. If the medication is successful in humans, it would revolutionize how diabetes is treated.
Type 2 diabetes is common in older individuals whose bodies’ do not respond as they should to insulin, the key hormone that regulates blood sugar. Most diabetics opt for insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels, while others rely on restrictive diets to avoid sugar altogether. Though both of these techniques help manage the disease, they cannot cure it. They come with a number of potential of side effects including weight gain and diarrhea.
What’s more, dependence on insulin injections may lead to insulin resistance. And if untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to health problems like kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision problems.
The proposed daily pill would restore the body’s sensitivity to insulin and increase the activity of the insulin receptor in the liver. Researchers believe this could introduce a new therapeutic strategy to treating type 2 diabetes and hopefully result in a lessened reliance on insulin injections by people with adult-onset diabetes.
Here’s Andy Coghlan, reporting for New Scientist:
The drug works by inhibiting an enzyme called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP), which seems to contribute to cells losing their sensitivity to insulin. By hindering LMPTP, the drug reawakens insulin receptors on the surface of cells – especially in the liver – which normally absorb excess sugar from the blood when they detect insulin.
The gene that makes LMPTP has previously been linked with diabetes-like problems in people, prompting the team to investigate further. When the group stopped the gene working in mice, the animals no longer developed diabetes if fed a high-fat diet.
Researchers found that LMPTP promotes the insulin resistance that often develops during obesity. Therefore, by blocking the LMPTP enzyme, receptors became increasingly responsive to insulin and reversed the diabetes symptoms.
The study proves that LMPTP can in fact be targeted without resulting in negative side effects—something researchers have been working toward for years. So far the drug has only been tested in mice, but the research suggest it could have similar effects in people with type 2 diabetes. The next step for researchers is to understand whether or not the treatment can be safely conducted in clinical trials.