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Bespoke molecules could benefit diabetes treatments and explain cancer links

University of Bath researchers have created new molecules which they say could eventually be developed into drugs to help treat diabetes and cancer.
The compounds could aid people with diabetes because they can increase glucose uptake into fat cells, potentially helping to reduce blood sugar levels and minimise hypoglycemia.
There may also be additional benefits towards reducing high levels of circulating insulin. However, the treatment may encourage weight gain so the balance of pros and cons will need to be monitored in research trials.
“It’s early days but our new set of molecules are a great starting point towards the development of new drugs … to treat cancer, diabetes and inflammatory diseases,” said Dr Amit Nathubhai, from the University of Bath’s department of pharmacy and pharmacology.
The molecules were specifically developed so they could bind to enzymes called tankyrases, which play an important role in the cellular process called Wnt/beta-catenin signalling.
This signaling process is involved in several cancers, such as colon cancer, and a number of inflammatory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The compounds were found to decrease the production of colon cancer cells, and researchers believe the findings could be used to help explain the link between some cancers, obesity and diabetes.
“We have shown they are potent and selective and we see enhanced glucose uptake and a marked reduction of colon cancer cell proliferation using our molecules,” added Nathubhai.
“The next phase of our research is to further optimise our molecules and evaluate them using models of particular cancers and fibrotic diseases to reveal potential opportunities to develop new therapies.
“In addition, we are investigating the effects of our tankyrase inhibitors in other biological models of diabetes and obesity. We hope to reveal the underlying mechanism(s) that link cancer, fibrosis, diabetes and obesity, which remains unclear.”
The next step in their research is to use cells from people with diseases, such as colon cancer, in a bid to develop 3D models which can be used for further investigation into the effects of Tankyrase/Wnt signaling.
The findings appear in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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