An experimental diabetes treatment that packs the action of two natural hormones into a single injectable agent has been shown to successfully lower blood sugar in humans, monkeys and rodents. Marking a new approach in the treatment of the disease, the currently unnamed molecule also seems likely to cause fewer gastrointestinal side effects in humans than did other diabetes medicines.
“We aimed for achieving the best glycaemic control with as little effect on the gut as possible,” says Richard DiMarchi, a biomolecular scientist at Indiana University in Bloomington, and a member of the international team that publishes the results today in Science Translational Medicine.
The molecule, which targets receptors for the two hormones, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), was developed in DiMarchi’s lab. Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, based in Basel, supported the research and has licensed the agent.
As part of the study, 44 patients with type 2 diabetes received once-weekly injection of the dual-action molecule at various doses for six weeks while nine others received placebo injections. Blood tests showed a dose-dependent response; at the highest doses, a standard marker of blood glucose levels dropped an average of 1.1 percentage points from the baseline (which ranged from 7.4% to 7.9%; normal levels are below 5.7% in non-diabetic patients). In the placebo group, the marker dropped by just 0.16 points.