Scientists harness new drug discovery tool to treat diabetes

LONDON - Scientists have harnessed a new drug discovery tool to identify a player in our insulin secretion process, which could spur a new class of drugs to treat type-2 diabetes.

Oxford University researchers 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.

Lead researcher Grant 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.

‘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 medicine.

‘The major difference is that we have linked the computational methods commonly used by pharmaceutical companies to a freely available database of five million existing compounds - the ZINC database. This means we cut out a hugely time consuming and financially intensive part of the process, which is difficult for small academic labs to do,’ Churchill said.

The team has tested their method by successfully identifying a small molecule called Ned-19.

In collaboration with University of Southampton team, Ned-19 was prepared on a larger scale and separated, said a Southampton release.

Further experiments were carried out with these compounds to confirm the activity of Ned-19. Using Ned-19 in experiments they have discovered that NAADP plays a crucial role in insulin secretion and therefore represents a brand new target for diabetes drugs.

The result was published in the Sunday edition of Nature Chemical Biology.

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