Harvard University scientists have discovered a new compound that can slow the degradation of insulin in animals, paving the way for a potential new treatment for diabetes.
In studies of mice, the researchers found the compound blocks an enzyme (IDE) that decreases insulin — a hormone produced by the pancreas that is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. As a result, it may help diabetics maintain higher healthier levels of insulin to improve blood sugar tolerance and treat diabetes, Medical Xpress reports.
The discovery of the new compound was detailed in the journal Nature by lead researchers David Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and Alan Saghatelian, an associate professor.
"This work validates a new potential target for the treatment of diabetes," Liu said. "What we show is that inhibiting IDE in an animal can improve glucose tolerance under conditions that mimic the intake of a meal if you administer this compound beforehand."
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For decades, diabetes treatments have involved insulin injections, oral drugs that stimulate insulin production, or meds that make the body more sensitive to insulin.
"What's been missing has been the ability to regulate the degradation of insulin," Saghatelian said. "The technological leap we've made was in identifying a molecule that allows that to happen. This opens up a new avenue to control insulin [levels]."
In addition to pointing the way toward a new way to treat diabetes, researchers uncovered new information about how IDE works in the body. While the discovery is exciting, Liu emphasized that it may still be years before the new compound finds its way onto pharmacy shelves.
"To develop a drug requires a number of additional tests and developments," he said. "But this work validates IDE as a new target for the treatment of diabetes, and it provides experimental tools that can be used to develop this compound further into potential therapeutic leads."
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