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New Drug for Diabetes, Weight Loss?

Chinese Scientists Find Key to Oral Diabetes Drug That Could Also Cut Overeating
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 4, 2007 -- Chinese researchers may have found the key to an oral drug that could treat both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

They are focusing on a compound called Boc5 by Ming-Wei Wang, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the National Center for Drug Screening and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, China.

Boc5 is not powerful enough to become a diabetes or weight loss drug. But Wang and colleagues suggest that daughter compounds could join the latest generation of diabetes drugs, called "incretin mimetics."

The first FDA-approved incretin mimetic was Byetta. A second such drug, with the generic name liraglutide, is in clinical trials.

These drugs mimic an intestinal peptide, glucagon-like peptide, or GLP-1.

The drugs help people with type 2 diabetes normalize their blood sugar, lose weight, and perhaps even gain new insulin-making cells.

The problem is that they are large molecules. This means they can't be used as oral drugs, but have to be given by injection.

That's what makes Boc5 different. It's a small molecule and therefore promises to sire a new family of more powerful oral drugs for diabetes.

New Diabetes, Weight Loss Drug?

To find Boc5, Wang and colleagues screened 48,160 compounds for GLP-1-like activity. They found two.

Eventually, these compounds led them to the molecule now called Boc5.

The scientists tested the Boc5 drugs in a strain of mice bred with a defect that makes them overeat. This overeating, coupled with insulin resistanceand defective insulin production, makes the mice diabetic.

Mice given Boc5 began to eat less; and daily doses reduced the animals' blood-sugar levels to normal. Also, when GLP-1 activity was blocked, these Boc5 effects were blocked as well.

"Although the observed effects point to a potential anti-diabetic, anti-obesity utility, a practical drug will likely require greater potency," Wang and colleagues conclude.

But, they add, "The findings reported here ... have the potential to spawn a new class of orally available [drugs] for treatment of metabolic diseases."

Wang and colleagues report their findings in the Jan. 5 early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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