Using Carbohydrates to Treat Diabetes


A new class of drugs based on carbohydrates might serve as the basis of better diabetes treatment.

Diabetes and the Potential Power of Carbs

People with diabetes have long been told to carefully manage their carbohydrate intake. This is because too many carbs can cause a person’s blood sugar levels to go too high. This is major problem for diabetes patients. But now there is an interesting twist.

New research suggests that carbohydrates can help reduce the amount of sugar that is absorbed into the blood. Carbs come in lots of sizes and shapes. As a result, researchers can use carbs to create a broad range of drugs. Some of these new drugs might be able to address the complications of diabetes.

Carbs play a key role in how cells work, and they also play a role in major diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory disease. Because they come in so many forms, carbs can be used to create a range of drugs. Yet because they are so complex, carbs have not received as much scientific attention as other molecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins. In recent years, however, this is starting to change, with significant progress being made in this area.

BTI-320: A Carbohydrate Drug Candidate

Boston Therapeutics, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, is developing one such drug based on carbs to address Type 2 diabetes.

BTI-320 is a non-toxic, chewable compound that is designed to lower the rise of blood glucose that occurs after meals. As a result, it might be useful as a treatment to delay or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes and its related complications.

The compound is designed to be taken before eating. It operates in the gastrointestinal tract to block the action of enzymes that break down carbs in foods during digestion. In turn, this serves to lower the amount of available glucose absorbed via the intestine.

Testing BTI-320

A paper published in 2013 in the journal Endocrine Practice reported positive clinical trial results of BTI-320 in patients with Type 2 diabetes conducted at Dartmouth Medical Center.

In the study, 45 percent of patients already taking a standard diabetes drug—such as metformin or insulin—responded to BTI-320 with a 40 percent reduction of post-meal glucose in the blood. The encouraging results led Boston Therapeutics to announce it would begin additional clinical trials with BTI-320.

A follow-up study, published this year in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, showed a 75 percent response rate, supporting further clinical development of BTI-320 in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Boston Therapeutics expects to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this year, as well as to begin a pivotal Phase III international clinical trial involving BTI-320 in 2015.

As ironic as it might seem, carbs—in the new guise of complex carbohydrate drugs like BTI-320—might improve the lives of many people with diabetes.

David Platt, Ph.D. is CEO of Boston Therapeutics, Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of novel, carbohydrate-based compounds to address unmet medical needs in the areas of diabetes and inflammatory diseases.


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