In Brief

Scientists have used a new drug to reverse diabetes in mice.
The drug inhibits the enzyme LMPTP, which contributes to the
development of Type 2 diabetes by weakening the body’s
sensitivity to the hormone.

Defining Diabetes

In the global community, the number of people with diabetes
has been on the rise since 1980, with 422 million people diagnosed by
 The U.S. alone has experienced a substantial
rise in the incidence of diabetes, with the number of
Americans diagnosed increasing from 5.5 million in 1980, to
22 million in 2014—a more than 300 percent increase in
less than 40 years.

A team of researchers, led by Stephanie Stanford at the University of
California, San Diego, is proposing a
 in the form of a single pill that aims to
restore insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients. Type 2
diabetes develops when the body’s response to insulin, the
hormone responsible for regulating sugar in our blood,
weakens. A number of genetic and lifestyle factors will
influence whether or not someone develops this type of
diabetes in their lifetime.

Up until now, drugs were unable to restore the insulin
signaling function in diabetic patients — instead,
they work by filtering out excess glucose in the
blood that comes as a result of the dysfunction. The drug
produced by Stanford’s team, on the other hand, hopes to
restore function.

Restoring Function

The drug inhibits an enzyme called low molecular weight
protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP), which is suspected to
contribute to the reduction in cell sensitivity to insulin.
With reduced LMPTP activity, the drug reenables insulin
receptors on the surface of cells — particularly those in the
liver — which in turn restores the cell’s ability to
regulate excess sugar. When the body can once again regulate
blood sugar levels, the condition of Type 2 diabetes is
effectively reversed.

The researchers fed lab mice a high-fat diet that made them
obese, which subsequently caused them to develop high blood
glucose levels. The drug was given to the mice on a
daily basis and successfully restored insulin sensitivity
without producing any adverse side effects.

While the mouse trial’s results are exciting, the team must
continue testing the drug for safety, so human clinical
trials are still some time away. But Stanford is confident
that the drug “could lead to a new therapeutic strategy for
treating type 2 diabetes,”

While we have seen diabetes reversal in patients
before, it has never been achieved through medication
alone. So, if this drug is approved for use in humans it
would be a truly revolutionary treatment.

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