New generation of drugs to treat type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on May 22, 2017

Scientists in Australia and the United States are working on a new generation of drugs to treat diabetes aimed at helping them to avoid daily insulin injections.

Two new pieces of research, described as ground breaking, aim to develop pills to treat type 2 diabetes which is a growing conditions worldwide linked to lifestyle and obesity.


Researchers, led by a team from the University of Adelaide, are testing safer and more effective drugs which they believe will reduce side effects and could be more efficient in reducing blood sugar levels.

The two new drugs work by targeting a protein receptor known as PPARgamma found in fat tissue throughout the body to lower blood sugar by increasing sensitivity to insulin and changing the metabolism of fat and sugar.

The first study, undertaken in partnership with The Scripps Research Institute in the United States, involves 14 versions of a drug which worked by partially activating PPARgamma and  which resulted in fewer side effects.

The second study, in collaboration with South Australia’s Flinders University, used X-ray crystallography to demonstrate how a drug, rivoglitazone, binds with the PPARgamma receptor and this produced fewer side effects than other drugs that activate the same way.

John Bruning from the University’s School of Biological Sciences and Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing said developing safer and more efficient drugs is essential. ‘People with severe diabetes need to take insulin but having to inject this can be problematic, and it’s difficult to get insulin levels just right. It’s highly desirable for people to come off insulin injections and instead use oral therapeutics,’ he added.

He explained that a major finding of the first study was being able to show which regions of the drug are most important for interacting with the PPARgamma receptor. ‘This means we now have the information to design modified drugs which will work even more efficiently,’ he said.

In the second study, showing how the potential new drug, rivoglitazone, binds with the PPARgamma receptor is a key step towards being able to design new therapeutics with higher efficiencies and less side effects,’ according to Dr Rajapaksha of Flinders University School of Medicine.

He added that previously a lack of structural information was hampering determination of the precise mechanisms involved.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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