Novel anti-diabetic drugs that can be controlled with light

Posted: 11 April 2016 | Victoria White, Digital Content Producer | No comments yet

New research could pave the way for a new generation of anti-diabetic drugs that are activated by the presence of either blue or ultra-violet light…

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have developed a light-activated tool to show how drugs need to be adapted to combat type 2 diabetes.

The study provides insight into the signalling process of receptors in cells and could pave the way for a new generation of anti-diabetic drugs that are activated by the presence of either blue or ultra-violet light.

Dr David Hodson, from the University of Birmingham, explains: “Current treatment for type 2 diabetes hinges on dietary and medical intervention to restore the body’s ability to release insulin. Over the past 10 years a class of drugs termed incretin-mimetics have been developed, and have revolutionised the treatment of type 2 diabetes.”

“The challenge now is to make such interventions more targeted. At the moment, the approach is equivalent to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. By advancing our understanding of receptors in cells we can design more efficient drugs and reduce the risk of side effects. Light-activated technologies that change the shape of drugs are really interesting, non-invasive ways of getting the treatment to the right place, at the right time.”

New anti-diabetic can be precisely controlled with light

Current drugs target the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor, a G-protein coupled receptor. However, much remains unknown about how this receptor works, limiting production of newer, safer and more effective anti-diabetics. In particular, the GLP-1R possesses a back door, termed an allosteric site. This site is of particular interest for the development of drugs that demonstrate superior selectivity. However, drug discovery efforts are hampered by lack of tools to understand how the allosteric site works.

To circumvent this problem, the researchers employed a combination of synthetic chemistry, biology and high-throughput screening to produce a novel anti-diabetic whose activity can be precisely controlled with light.

Their new drug, PhotoETP, shows that the structure needs to be twisted to fit into the allosteric site, and extended to activate signalling and insulin secretion.

With this information, the researchers say a new generation of light-activated anti-diabetics can now be produced that allow better control over blood glucose levels with fewer side effects.

Related conditions

Related organisations