A new approach to help treat type 2 diabetes

April 2022

A research team that includes several FOEDRC faculty recently published an article describing a new approach to help treat type 2 diabetes. The research team included FOEDRC faculty members Robert Kerns PhD, Andrew Norris MD PhD, Eric Taylor PhD, Yumi Imai MD, and Jessica Smith MD. Also recognized in the publication was Wojciech Grzesik, PhD, who is a research scientist in the FOEDRC metabolic phenotyping core. The work was published in the prestigious journal "Nature Communications" and can be found at this link : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35145074/

Type 2 diabetes affects over 35 million Americans and is a leading cause of disability, expense, and mortality. Type 2 diabetes rates are climbing, in part because there are not yet optimal therapies and preventative strategies. This newly published study reports the development of new prototype drugs that treat type 2 diabetes in mice. The target of these new prototype drugs is a protein named SWELL1. It is a chloride transport protein and is involved in beta-cell and adipose tissue functions. Interestingly, these new prototype drugs inhibit SWELL1 and simultaneously improve insulin sensitivity and increase beta-cell function. Because poor insulin sensitivity and poor beta-cell function are the two factors that cause type 2 diabetes, this new class of drugs represents a two-pronged approach to prevent and/or treat type 2 diabetes. As proof of concept, the investigators found that these prototype drugs potently improved blood sugar levels in mice with type 2 diabetes. The research was directed by Rajan Sah MD PhD, a former member of the FOEDRC who is currently faculty at Washington University in St Louis. The work was bolstered by ongoing collaborations between Dr. Sah and the FOEDRC.  Furthermore, this line of research was initiated at the FOEDRC while Dr. Sah was faculty at the University of Iowa.