New drug could treat diabetes

An international study, led by Monash University, has uncovered a drug that could treat obesity, diabetes and loss of muscle mass.

With type 2 diabetes costing the Australian healthcare system more than $6 billion annually and affecting more than 1.5 million Australians, researchers are excited but cautious about the possibilities of the discovery.

An international research team led by Monash University, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has established that an experimental drug for obesity-related metabolic diseases could soon be tested in humans.

The study, published in the journal Nature, indicates that a compound called IC7Fc could improve glucose metabolism and prevent weight gain, enabling it to be an effective treatment for conditions including diabetes, obesity and loss of muscle mass.

The study suggests that IC7Fc could provide a welcome relief for disease sufferers, with no reported side effects in preliminary experiments.

Led by Professor Mark Febbraio, of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the 13-year study has confirmed that the protein is safe in several preclinical models. 

“This is the first time that we have demonstrated pharmacological evidence that we could treat obesity, type 2 diabetes, muscle loss and a loss of bone density with a single drug,” he said. “These ageing-related diseases have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, while putting stress on the Australian healthcare system.”

Researchers have shown that IC7Fc improves glucose tolerance and hyperglycemia, and prevents weight gain and liver steatosis in mice.

The compound’s ability to induce muscle hypertrophy – an increase in the size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of component cells – is important since increased muscle mass reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Prof. Febbraio says there are currently no drugs on the market that have these multiple, positive benefits on overall health and metabolism.

“Type 2 diabetes costs the Australian healthcare system more than $6 billion annually and affects more than 1.5 million Australians,” he said.

“Despite the presence of a number of well-established drug classes for treating type 2 diabetes, there is still a significant unmet need for a drug that halts, or reverses, disease progression.

“A drug such as the IC7Fc could not only treat diabetes but could be harnessed to treat muscle mass loss, regulate food intake and frailty as well.”

IC7Fc has passed preclinical hurdles and is poised to enter phase one human clinical trials.

Do you suffer from type 2 diabetes? Could this development assist your condition?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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