New drug to treat type 2 diabetes by burning liver fat

Mon, 06 Oct 2014
A new drug, which has previously been used to treat infections of parasitic worms, could be an effective medication for tackling insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Researcher Victor Shengkan Jin, from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, wanted to find a treatment which would be able to reduce the amount of fat in major organs such as the liver and muscle. Decreasing fat in the liver has been associated with reduction of insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes.

Jin knew that the worm infection treatment niclosamide could meet the goal of reducing liver fat. Niclosamide works by a process of mitochondrial uncoupling which increases energy expenditure and has the ultimate effect of burning excess fat in liver cells. Keen to put the niclosamide to the test, Dr Jin's research team used a modified form of the drug, niclosamide ethanolamine salt (NEN), and tested the effects in mice.

Mice with genetic and diet induced forms of type 2 diabetes were used in the study. The mice were treated for 8 weeks with NEN and then measurements, including blood glucose levels and insulin levels, were taken. The results showed that after 8 weeks, mice treated with the drug displayed significant signs of reduced insulin resistance through reduced circulating insulin levels as well as reduced blood glucose levels.

Dr Jin notes that niclosamide has a known safety profile in mammals and, if found to have tolerable side effects in humans, therefore represents a promising oral treatment that could prevent the need for bariatric surgery procedures, which are currently the only treatments that have shown consistent success in reversing type 2 diabetes. The next step for Dr Jin's research team will be to test the effects of the treatment in humans.
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