New drug treats root cause of type 2 diabetes, could reverse the disease
A modified version of niclosamide, a drug that currently treats intestinal parasites, could be the key to reversing type 2 diabetes, according to new research from a Rutgers professor.
Victor Shengkan Jin reports that one of the major causes of insulin resistance is excessive fat in the liver, which prevents the body from absorbing glucose and using it as fuel.
The new drug, however, burns away this excess fat in a process called mitochondrial uncoupling - which enables the cells to burn away the fat.
“The cell is like a car and the mitochondria are the engine,” Jin said in an article on Rutgers' website. “What we’re doing inside cells is like putting the car’s transmission into neutral by uncoupling it from the transmission. Then you step on the gas so the engine runs full throttle but the car doesn’t move. If too much of the fuel in the cell is fat, you keep burning it until the fuel gauge reaches empty. Without the interference of fat, you hope that sugar will then enter the cell normally.”
Without excessive fat in the liver, cells can appropriately respond to insulin and enable better regulation of blood sugar.
The drug hasn't been tested in humans, but Jin says the results seen in mammals point to the idea that it would have a good safety profile for people too.
"We wanted a safe and practical compound to deplete fat inside cells,” he explained. “We went to the literature and found an approved drug that does in parasitic worms what we wanted to do in liver cells."
The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.