The biotechnology company Fractyl Health (USA) is in the early stages of developing a one-time gene therapy to reduce blood sugar and body weight, writes WIRED.
It is a drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which can also be used for weight control. It is based on the idea of achieving a long-term effect after taking the drug once.
The company wants to deliver an artificial gene to the pancreas that will continuously produce the GLP-1 hormone, one of whose jobs is to tell the pancreas to produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Also, this hormone interacts with areas of the brain responsible for appetite and signals a feeling of satiety. So the need for weekly injections will disappear. This approach uses inactivated viruses to transfer a therapeutic gene into pancreatic cells.
So far Fractyl tested the approach on animals. The company’s scientists wanted to see how well the experimental gene therapy could lower fasting blood sugar, a measure used to diagnose diabetes. After 10 weeks of testing on mice, they noticed a 70% reduction in sugar levels.
The scientists presented these results at the American Diabetes Association conference in late June, along with separate findings that the therapy also reduced the mice’s body weight by 23% compared to control mice.
If a single gene therapy works – and is safe – it could be a game-changer in the fight against diabetes and obesity.
“Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that needs to be treated chronically. Obesity is a chronic condition that needs to be treated chronically,” says Randy Seeley, a professor of surgery and obesity specialist at the University of Michigan. “If you only have to give people access once, rather than every week, the use of this strategy will go up and benefit more patients.”
By the way, in the spring the US National Institutes of Health announced the start of the first phase of clinical trials of a potential universal flu vaccine.