Scientists have uncovered a potential new drug treatment for type 2 diabetes in the form of an old medication used to treat asthma .
Amlexanox is a drug that is currently prescribed to treat asthma in Japan and canker sores in the US. But researchers from the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan believe the medicine could also be used for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The team, led by Alan Saltiel, conducted a study in which genetic and dietary-induced obese mice were given amlexanox. After taking the medication, the mice began to lose weight, while metabolic problems associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease began to improve.
According to the scientists, amlexanox inhibits the genes IKKE and TBK1. Expression of these genes can slow down metabolism, leading to obesity and other weight-related health problems .
“Amlexanox appears to work in mice by inhibiting two genes – IKKE and TBK1 – that we think together act as a sort of brake on metabolism,” Saltiel explained. “By releasing the brake, amlexanox seems to free the metabolic system to burn more, and possibly store less, energy.”
The finding, published this week in the journal Nature Medicine, confirms previous research by Saltiel in 2009, which was the first to show that IKKE and TBK1 play a crucial role in maintaining metabolic balance.
“These studies tell us that, at least in mice, the IKKE/TBK1 pathway plays an important role in defending body weight by increasing storage and decreasing burning of calories, and that by inhibiting that pathway with a compound, we can increase metabolism and induce weight loss, reverse diabetes and reduce fatty liver,” Saltiel said.
He warned, however, that it is too early to tell if amlexanox can have the same or similar effects on humans.

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