Molecule May Be Key to Diabetes Pill

CHICAGO ~ Chinese researchers have identified a compound that controls diabetes in mice and may point the way to more user-friendly treatments for the most common type of human diabetes, a study released this week said.

The compound has only been tested in mice so far, but if it were shown to be effective in humans, it could be turned into a drug, replacing less user-friendly medicines that need to be injected twice a day, the authors of the study said.

“We are seeking pharmaceutical partners so we can develop this lead,” said Ming-Wei Wang, director of China’s National Center for Drug Screening in Shanghai, and lead author of the study.

Researchers at the center identified the molecule – Boc5 – after screening thousands of substances to find ones with properties similar to one of the body’s own glucose-regulating gut hormones, called GLP-1, in an “orally available” form.

GLP-1 has been shown to normalize glucose levels in diabetic patients, but because its efficacy diminishes quickly with time, the drug industry has focused its attention on a class of agents that mimic the effects of the hormone but are longer-acting.

In 2005, Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Company began marketing the first of these so-called “incretin mimetic” medications for type II, or adult-onset diabetes.

The medicine, called Byetta, helps diabetes patients manage their blood sugar levels by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin after a meal and slowing the rate at which food and glucose leave the stomach, preventing glucose spikes after a meal.

Byetta has also been shown to curb appetite and help with weight loss in some patients, but it is only available as an injection, which may be a deterrent for some patients, so researchers have continued to hunt for compounds that act like GLP-1, but are “orally available.”

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