New drug could naturally boost insulin levels

For type 2 diabetics, not producing enough insulin can lead to high blood sugar levels – which must usually be treated by adding more insulin to the body.

Yet scientists have recently discovered a molecule that slows the disappearance of insulin, suggesting there may be a way to treat type 2 diabetes without needing to boost insulin supplies artificially.

Molecule targets insulin-degrading enzyme

The study, which was published in the journal Nature, focused on the role of insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). This enzyme helps to break down insulin, so finding a way to block its function could lead to new treatments for diabetics, the researchers speculated. In their work, the team was able to find a molecule called 6bK that appears to block IDE.

Using mice subjects, scientists gave the rodents injections of 6bK, followed by an oral dose of sugar – which was meant to model what would happen to blood sugar after eating. Mice who were treated with 6bK had better insulin levels and glucose control, the study found.

"The findings, researchers say, firmly establish IDE as a target of exploration among diabetes therapies," writes Carl Engelking at Discovery Magazine. "Researchers speculate that pre-meal medications that block IDE, rather than chronic treatments, could be developed based on the evidence presented in their study."

David Liu, Harvard professor of both chemistry and biology and lead study author, says that varied approaches are necessary in treating type 2 diabetes, since many drugs eventually stop working effectively.

"It’s important to have these different approaches, because patients respond differently,” he said.

Source: Nature Magazine, Boston Globe

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