Washington DC: Scientists have come a step closer to developing new treatments for diabetes after deploying a powerful new drug discovery technique to identify an anti-diabetes compound with a novel mechanism of action.
The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) finding may lead to a new type of diabetes treatment. Just as importantly, it demonstrates the potential of the new technique, which enables researchers to quickly find drug candidates that activate cellular receptors in desired ways.
"In principle, we can apply this technique to hundreds of other receptors like the one we targeted in this study to find disease treatments that are more potent and have fewer side effects than existing therapies. It has been a very productive cross-campus collaboration, so we're hoping to build on its success as we continue to collaborate on interrogating potential therapeutic targets," said senior investigator Patricia H. McDonald.
Three years ago, Richard A. Lerner and colleagues devised a technique called autocrine selection, which enables scientists to screen very large libraries of molecules to find those that not only bind a given cellular receptor but also activate it to bring about a desired therapeutic effect. Since then, the Lerner laboratory and collaborating scientists have used the technique to find new molecules that block cold virus infection, boost red blood cell production and kill cancer cells, among other effects.
For the new study, Lerner and his laboratory used the technique to target a receptor linked to type 2 diabetes, a life-shortening disease estimated to affect 30 million people in the US alone. The GLP-1 receptor, as it is known, is expressed by insulin-producing "beta cells" in the pancreas.
The study appears online in Nature Communications.