‘Genius’ diabetes pill could transform care: Experimental drug developed in Sweden may revolutionise four million Britons’ treatment
- A new drug called ATR-258 could revolutionise the treatment of type 2 diabetes
- The drug is the first that works by directly moving sugar from blood into muscles
- The experimental drug was developed in Sweden and is being trialled in patients
- Around four million people in the UK have diabetes, with most having type 2
A new type of drug that triggers the body’s muscles to soak up excess blood sugar could revolutionise the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
The experimental drug, code-named ATR-258, is the first medication to work by directly moving sugar from the blood and into the muscles. Developed in Sweden, it’s been successful in animal studies and is now being trialled in patients.
There are around four million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes — the majority have type 2. This occurs either because the body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin (which helps muscles to mop up excess sugar from the blood) or because muscle cells don’t respond to insulin very well.
There are around four million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes — the majority have type 2 (File image)
As a result, sugar (glucose) builds up in the blood — this can eventually damage cells and nerves, potentially leading to eye problems, heart disease and stroke.
In type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in childhood, the body does not make any insulin because the immune system attacks and destroys pancreas cells that produce it. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily. Nine out of ten people with diabetes have type 2, however, usually diagnosed later in life.
Risk factors include being overweight, lack of physical activity, family history and high blood pressure. With type 2, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well — treatments range from lifestyle changes to drugs that help the body deal with the higher blood sugar levels. Most drugs work on boosting the insulin system.
But ATR-258, developed by Atrogi, a company founded by Tore Bengtsson, a physiology professor at Stockholm University, is a new class of medication that bypasses the insulin system. It acts on muscle receptors, stimulating the muscles to take glucose out of the blood — to use for energy — and further lowering blood sugar levels independent of the pancreas and insulin.
Studies in rats showed ATR-258 lowers blood glucose to healthy levels and boosts insulin sensitivity — reducing the amount required.
Nearly 80 people are taking part in the trial at CRS Clinical Research Services, Mannheim, Germany.
A new type of drug that triggers the body’s muscles to soak up excess blood sugar could revolutionise the treatment of type 2 diabetes (File image)
‘Current treatments for type 2 diabetes aim to over-stimulate the already dysfunctional insulin system, and seldom work well,’ says Professor Bengtsson. ‘Over time, this means poor effectiveness and a risk of serious illness. Our treatment means that these problems can be avoided.’
Commenting on the research, Dr Ali Aldibbiat, a consultant in diabetes and endocrinology in Kuwait and a researcher at Newcastle University, said: ‘It is exciting to see drugs that are independent of insulin.
‘This ensures patients with type 2 diabetes can be treated for longer as internal insulin production tends to decline over time, which renders other treatments less effective.
‘The genius of ATR-258 is it hacks the very mechanism that allows sugar to enter the cells for use as an energy source, a process otherwise dependent fully on insulin.’
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