Discovering new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes

13 July 2016

Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, with a new case occurring every five minutes according to Diabetes Australia.

IMB researchers are developing new drugs that target the underlying cause of diabetes and could be taken as tablets rather than injections. 

IMB’s Dr Abishek Iyer said diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce adequate levels of insulin, a hormone that allows glucose (a sugar) to be absorbed from the blood and converted into energy. 

“Most current treatments for type 2 diabetes delay the progression of the disease, but cannot halt or cure it,” he said.

“Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions due to high sugar and high fat diets, unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and an ageing population; all likely to increase in the next decade.

“We are focused on developing new drugs that target certain cells in the pancreas and cause them to produce more insulin to overcome the problems associated with diabetes.”

The research team has shown that their potential treatments can increase insulin production, now they aim to shrink them from large proteins that can only be administered by injection, to smaller protein fragments and small molecules that can be taken as tablets. 

“Oral drugs are cheaper, easier to administer and require less medical supervision than current injectable medicines,” Dr Iyer said. 

“Diabetes Australia estimates that type 2 diabetes costs Australia approximately $14 billion per year, so anything we can do to decrease costs and improve patients’ health is important.”

The new treatments the team is developing may also be useful in managing obesity, in which poor control of blood glucose plays a negative role.  

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