SBP scientists reflect on progress in diabetes research

| Written by Deborah Robison

“The most significant advances in diabetes treatment, which were underscored at the ADA meeting, is the clinical evidence that two newer classes of anti-diabetic drugs significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes and overall mortality. These drug families are insulin secretion enhancers such as liraglutide (LEADER trial) and drugs that promote glucose elimination in the urine, such as canagliflozin and empagliflozin (EMPA-REG OUTCOME trial). This has major impact because reducing the risk of heart disease is always the end goal in treating diabetes—the association with heart disease is what makes type 2 diabetes so serious. These trials also present a remarkable opportunity for basic researchers—many of us, including several here in Lake Nona, study how drugs in these classes affect metabolism. The answers to those questions should lead to new drug targets that are even more specific and precision-oriented.”

Peter Crawford, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director
Cardiovascular Metabolism Program

“From the sessions that I saw, there was a significant emphasis on combination treatments—either combining two or more already approved drugs that have related functions or generating fusions of multiple protein drugs. An example of the former is the combination of basal insulin and glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists to control fasting and post-meal glucose levels, respectively. With regards to fusion proteins, there were many posters and presentations highlighting efforts to generate dual and triple combinations that would lower glucose and aid weight loss. These approaches may reduce the need for patients to take multiple drugs and therefore improve efficacy and patient adherence.”

Julio Ayala, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Integrative Metabolism Program
ADA Thomas R. Lee Career Development Award Recipient ’14

“During the ADA meeting two symposia and numerous other presentations examined evidence implicating gut microbiota in the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. I am personally enthusiastic about the potential of novel therapeutic strategies that either prevent harmful changes in gut microbiota or even directly transplant “therapeutic” microbial species. Nevertheless, our current understanding of the potential mechanisms is very limited due to the complex factors affecting the microbiome such as the host’s genetics and the environment (diet, antibiotic use, history of infections etc.).”

George Kyriazis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Integrative Metabolism Program

"Of particular interest to me were the symposia on experimental strategies for understanding how the brain controls metabolism. Specifically, optogenetics and magnetogenetics are emerging as two powerful research tools for this purpose, and involve genetically modifying neurons to express either light- or magnetic field-sensitive proteins so that their activity can be controlled with fiber optic light or magnets, respectively. These sophisticated techniques will help investigators delineate which regions in the brain play a critical role in regulating blood glucose, which could lead to more effective therapies for diabetes and obesity.”

Melissa Burmeister, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Dr. Julio Ayala Lab


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