In what may be a major breakthrough for diabetes treatment, an Indian Institute of Technology,  (IIT) Mandi team discovered a drug molecule that can be used for treatment of diabetes. Called “PK2”, the molecule is able to trigger insulin release by the pancreas and can potentially be used as an orally administered medicine for diabetes.

IIT Mandi in a statement said, “The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The paper has been authored by Dr. Prosenjit Mondal, Associate Professor, School of Basic Sciences, and co-authored by Prof Subrata Ghosh, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi.”

Explaining the rationale for their research, Dr Mondal, said, “Current drugs such as exenatide and liraglutide used for diabetes, are administered as injections, and they are costly and unstable after administration. We seek to find simpler drugs that are stable, cheap, and effective against both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

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“Diabetes is associated with insufficient insulin release by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to blood glucose levels. The release of insulin entails many intricate biochemical processes. One such process involves protein structures called GLP1R present in the cells,” he said.

He further said that a hormonal molecule called GLP1, released after the ingestion of a meal, binds to the GLP1R and triggers the release of insulin. “Drugs such as exenatide and liraglutide mimic GLP1 and bind to GLP1R to trigger insulin release,” he said.

“To find alternatives to these drugs, the multi-institutional team first used computer simulation methods to screen various small molecules that can bind with GLP1R. While PK2, PK3, and PK4 had good binding abilities with GLP1R, they subsequently chose PK2 because of its better solubility in solvents. The researchers then synthesized PK2 in the lab for further testing,” IIT Mandi said in a statement.

Dr Prosenjit Mondal points to another critical finding in their work, “Beyond increasing insulin release, PK2 was also able to prevent and even reverse beta cell loss, a cell essential for insulin production, making it effective for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

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IIT Mandi in a statement said that in order to test the biological effects of PK2, the researchers administered it orally to experimental mice developing diabetes and measured glucose levels and insulin secretion.

“There was a six-fold increase in serum insulin levels in PK2-treated mice over the control group. These findings provide hope for inexpensive oral drugs for diabetic patients,” IIT Mandi said.

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