US scientists have discovered a new drug that helped mice with type 2 diabetes symptoms achieve normal blood sugar levels and could have similar effects in humans.
The daily drug is a small-molecule inhibitor which affects insulin signalling, helping the body to restore sensitivity to insulin.
The drug, which was administered orally, did not have any side effects, and the researchers are now planning to assess its effect in humans.
“This could lead to a new therapeutic strategy for treating type 2 diabetes,” said Stephanie Stanford of the University of California, San Diego, US.
“If this new drug works as described, it could be used to reverse insulin resistance, but we need to know first if it does that safely in people.”
Stanford’s team believes that the drug, which reawakens insulin receptors, especially in the liver, could prevent people with type 2 diabetes progressing to insulin injections.
Specifically, the drug targets an enzyme called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP), which researchers believe contributes to cells losing their sensitivity to insulin.
They tested the drug on mice which had developed type 2 diabetes after eating a high-calorie diet, making them obese, and found that LMPTP was a significant factor in the development of insulin resistance and obesity.
When the mice were given the new drug, it blocked the enzyme’s actions in the liver without any side effects and lowered their blood sugar levels.
“Our compound is very specific for the target, and we do not see any side effects after treatment in mice for a month, but the next step is to rigorously establish if it’s safe for use in clinical trials,” said Stanford. “The next step towards the clinic is to understand whether the treatment will be safe for people.”
The findings appear online in the journal Nature.