A new study in the United States is developing a diabetes treatment that could help tackle the disease, and not just the symptoms. A team from biotech firm Genentech have shown that an antibody of a growth factor protein, FGF21, which is involved in controlling blood sugar levels in the body, could help to reverse the metabolic condition.
With other studies finding that FGF21 can have benefits for laboratory monkeys and mice, researcher Junichiro Sonoda pointed out “the animals lose weight, and cholesterol, which increases cardiovascular risk, now goes down. And there’s a good cholesterol called HDL, which level goes up with FGF21 treatment.”
However, with humans tests have found that, to achieve a similar effect, people need to inject a lot of it and often. The scientists therefore produced antibodies that mimic FGF21 by attaching to the same receptors in the pancreas. When this was tested on mice, levels of blood sugar were normalised after just one injectio, and it took nearly 40 days before levels were restored to a usual diabetic level.
In publishing the findings in Science Translational Medicine, Sonoda added “This could become the very first class of drug that could reverse the disease instead of just treat the symptoms of disease. That would be a huge benefit for patients.” More work is of course required before treatment could be properly trialled on humans.

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