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Experimental drug for type 2 diabetes lowers blood sugar in mice

Experimental drug for type 2 diabetes lowers blood sugar and aids weight loss in obese mice with the condition, study reveals

  • Scientists injected the animals with the protein IC7Fc every day for a week
  • Targets a receptor found on many cells in humans that influence metabolism 
  • The scientists claim no existing type 2 diabetes drug has the same benefits 

An experimental type 2 diabetes drug can lower blood sugar and aid weight loss in obese mice with the condition. 

Scientists from Monash University in Australia injected the mice every day for a week with a protein they created called IC7Fc. 

IC7Fc targets the gp13 receptor, which is found on many cells in the human body and is known to influence metabolism. 

By the end of the week, the mice lost weight, ate less and had reduced blood-sugar levels, the researchers found. 

The weight loss came from reducing the body fat of the mice without affecting their muscle mass.

The scientists claim no existing type 2 diabetes drug has the same benefits. They are now seeking funding for human trials.

An experimental type 2 diabetes drug has shown promise in an animal study (stock)

More than 100million adults in the US live with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Prediabetes is defined as a person’s blood-sugar levels being higher than normal but not elevated enough to be considered diabetes.

And in the UK, 3.8million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, Diabetes UK statistics show.

In both nations, more than 90 per cent of diabetics have type 2, which is associated with being overweight or obese. 

Metformin is a go-to treatment for type 2 diabetes. It works by reducing the amount of sugar the liver releases into the blood, as well as improving how the body responds to insulin.

However, it does not cause weight loss, and many patients complain of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

The anti-obesity drug orlistat is also available on the NHS for people who have not been able to lose weight via diet and exercise. It is approved for type 2 diabetics with a BMI of 28 or more. 

WHAT IS TYPE 2 DIABETES?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.

More than 4million people in the UK are thought to have some form of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.

The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone which controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.

Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin. 

Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.

Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.

It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.

Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.

Source: NHS Choices; Diabetes.co.uk

A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered ‘ideal’, while 25-to-29.9 is overweight and 30 or more obese. 

Orlistat works by preventing around a third of fat found in food from being absorbed, with it being passed in the stools.

Common side effects include needing the toilet urgently and frequently, as well as flatulence and abdominal pain. 

The Australian scientists set out to create a safe, effective alternative. 

IC7Fc was made by combining two different signalling proteins found in humans.  

When injected into obese mice, the animals lost fat, ate less and saw their blood sugar levels go down.

‘Control’ mice, which were obese and diabetic, were just fed less and injected with a saline solution.  

Although the controls lost fat, they also saw their muscle mass go down. 

If IC7Fc’s benefits also occur in humans, elderly patients in particular may benefit, the scientists claim. This is due to them already being at risk of reduced muscle mass.

The mice that received IC7Fc also had less fat build-up in their livers. Metformin has been shown to have the same effect.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often occurs in patients who are overweight or obese, including type 2 diabetics, according to Diabetes.co.uk. Left untreated, it can cause severe liver damage and even failure. 

In a second part of the experiment, IC7Fc’s safety was tested in human cells in the laboratory and in monkeys. The drug did not trigger inflammation or an immune response, the study found.

The scientists claim that due to IC7F containing proteins, it has to be injected rather than swallowed. However, only one injection a week would be required, they said.

‘IC7Fc is a realistic next-generation biological agent for the treatment of type 2 diabetes’, they wrote.

Its effect on muscle mass means the drug may also benefit muscle atrophy, which occurs when the muscles waste away, the scientists added.  

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