A Canadian scientist, now based in the UK and funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, has harnessed a new drug discovery tool to identify a new player in the body's insulin secretion process. This finding could spark a completely new class of drugs to treat type 2 diabetes.
In work published this week in Nature Chemical Biology researchers at the University of Oxford, led by University of Saskatchewan graduate Dr Grant Churchill, explain how they have exploited new technology to create a cheap and efficient method of drug discovery that will allow small academic labs to search a large database of drugs to find treatments for diabetes and many other diseases. They have used this new method to identify a small molecule which they are using to understand how insulin is secreted in response to increases in blood sugar.
Dr Churchill said: "A lot of diseases are caused by problems with important proteins within cells. We need to find small molecules that change the function of these proteins both to discover how they work and in addition because these small molecules may also work as treatments for disease. The approach we have developed allows us to do this much more quickly and cheaply than many of the current methods. Ultimately this will speed up the process of getting better treatments into the clinic for patients."
Starting with a natural chemical and systematically modifying its chemical structure is a proven technique and common drugs such as beta-blockers and anti-histamines were discovered this way. However, these discoveries involved lengthy chemical syntheses starting with the natural chemical (adrenalin and histamine respectively).
"Our method also begins with the natural chemical but rather than modifying it with a time-consuming and expensive chemical syntheses conducted by a team of chemists, ours uses computers to identify corresponding small molecules for research and
|Contact: Nancy Mendoza|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council