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Researchers Identified New Potential Treatment for Obese Diabetics

Update Date: Nov 21, 2013 12:04 PM EST
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Health conditions are often tied to one another. For example, being overweight or obese can increase one's risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. In a new study, researchers found a new link between obesity and diabetes. According to the researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), a single overactive enzyme could be the key in treating diabetic people who are also overweight or obese.

The researchers were able to identify the enzyme called MK2. They found that MK2 was responsible for worsening two defects in diabetics, which are impaired insulin sensitivity and the overproduction of glucose. The researchers used this knowledge and attempted to prohibit MK2 activity in mouse studies. They believe that a drug combined with the current diabetes treatment, metformin, could effectively inhibit MK2 and be the key in treating type 2 diabetes in the future.

"MK2's compatibility with metformin makes it a very exciting potential drug target," explained Ira Tabas, MD, PhD, Richard J. Stock Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Medicine and professor of anatomy and cell biology. Tabas headed the study with Lale Ozcan, PhD, associate research scientist.

According to the researchers, metformin is currently pretty effective in treating the two main defects in diabetes. However, for people who cannot tolerate metformin or people who are obese or overweight, metformin becomes only partially effective. In order to make the drug more effective, researchers have been trying to add drugs to it.

"If you take an obese, diabetic mouse and give it metformin, you get a partial improvement. If you give it an MK2-inhibitor, you also get a partial improvement. However, if you give both, the benefit is additive, which is consistent with our data that metformin and MK2 work through different biochemical pathways," Tabas said.

So far, Tabas and Ozcan's papers have outlined how MK2 works in mice. In an unpublished paper, the doctors worked with CUMC surgeons Marc Bessler, MD and Beth Schrope, MD, PhD and found that MK2 appears to be overactive in obese people, but not in lean people. MK2 was also overactive in obese people with prediabetes. The researchers believe that creating a combination drug to inhibit MK2 could help prevent diabetes in people with prediabetes. However, the team acknowledged that more research would need to be done.

The study was published in Cell Metabolism.

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