Exercise-Mimic Molecule May Cure Type 2 Diabetes And Obesity

A new molecule that acts as an exercise mimicker could potentially treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to scientists from the University of Southampton.

The new molecule, compound 14, was developed by professor Ali Tavassoli. The molecule blocks the function of the cellular enzyme ATIC, which holds an important role in metabolism.

The blocking of ATIC leads to an accumulation of ZMP in cells, activating the cells’ main energy sensor, AMPK. This causes the cells to believe that they are low in energy, which forces the cells to increase energy levels by boosting the metabolism and increasing the acceptance of glucose.

The study, recently published in Chemistry and Biology, tested compound 14 on two groups of mice. One of the groups was given a standard diet and the other group was given a high-fat diet. The high-fat diet induced glucose intolerance and caused them to be obese (a precursor for pre-diabetes).

The mice fed a standard diet who were also treated with a solitary dose of the new compound for 7 days were able to maintain normal weight and blood glucose levels. Furthermore, glucose tolerance in these mice improved and they were able to lose 5 percent of their body weight. The compound did not make a difference in mice fed a normal diet (meaning they did not have type 2 diabetes and did not suffer from obesity).

Based on these results, compound 14 holds great promise in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Current treatments for type 2 diabetes center on elevating circulating insulin levels or improving the insulin sensitivity of an individual,” says co-author Dr. Felino Cagampang.

“The issue is that established drugs do not successfully enable patients with type 2 diabetes to achieve glycemic control and some can even result in weight gain, a leading factor driving the diabetes epidemic. In contrast, this new molecule seems to reduce glucose levels and at the same time decrease body weight, but only if the subject is obese.”

This study warrants further research on how compound 14 can be used in long-term treatment settings. There is also a need for discovering the how and why it works on treating type 2 diabetes and obesity so well.

“There is a lot of evidence from previous studies that if you could selectively activate AMPK with a small molecule, it could have potential benefits in the treatment of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes, by acting as an exercise mimetic and increasing the uptake and usage of glucose and oxygen by cells. Our molecule, which activates AMPK by altering cellular metabolism, therefore holds much promise as a potential therapeutic agent.”

More than one-third (78.6 million) United States adults suffer from obesity and an estimated 21.3 million adults are currently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. An estimated $147 billion dollars are spent per year on medical costs related to obesity, and by 2050, 1 out of 3 adults is expected to have type 2 diabetes.

[Image via Sean Gallop/Getty Images]

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