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Researchers Discover Compound That Slows Natural Degradation Of Insulin In The Body

Update Date: May 22, 2014 05:35 AM EDT

Scientists at Harvard have discovered a compound that can slow the degradation of insulin in animals. 

Researchers used the newly discovered compound to inhibit insulin degrading enzyme (IDE). While inhibiting IDE in mice, researchers observed that it elevated insulin levels promoting insulin signaling in vivo. 

Researchers said the compound can also help patients maintain higher insulin levels to improve glucose tolerance and therefore to treat diabetes. 

"This work validates a new potential target for the treatment of diabetes," said professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology David Liu, in the press release. "What we show is that inhibiting IDE in an animal can improve glucose tolerance under conditions that mimic the intake of a meal if you administer this compound beforehand."

"What's been missing has been the ability to regulate the degradation of insulin," added  associate professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Alan Saghatelian, in the press release. "The technological leap we've made was in identifying a molecule that allows that to happen. This opens up a new avenue to control insulin signaling in vivo."

Apart from the discovery of the compound, researchers also uncovered new information about how IDE worked in the body.

"In the process of resolving some seemingly paradoxical results, we discovered that IDE is actually somewhat misnamed," Liu said. "It doesn't just degrade insulin, it degrades at least two other important glucose-regulating peptide hormones - glucagon and amylin."

However researchers also emphasized on the fact that it may take some time before the new product finds its way onto pharmacy shelves. 

"To develop a drug requires a number of additional tests and developments," he said. "But this work validates IDE as a new target for the treatment of diabetes, and it provides experimental tools that can be used to develop this compound further into potential therapeutic leads."

The research has been published in the journal Nature

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