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Experimental drug developed in Sweden may revolutionise four million Britons’ treatment for diabetes

‘Genius’ diabetes pill could transform healthcare: Experimental drug developed in Sweden could revolutionize treatment for four million Britons

  • A new drug called ATR-258 could revolutionize the treatment of type 2 diabetes
  • The drug is the first to work by moving sugar directly from the blood to the muscles
  • The experimental drug was developed in Sweden and is being tested in patients
  • About four million people in the UK have diabetes, most of them type 2

A new type of drug that prompts the body’s muscles to absorb excess blood sugar could revolutionize the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

The experimental drug, codenamed ATR-258, is the first drug to work by moving sugar directly out of the blood and into the muscles. It was developed in Sweden, has been successful in animal studies and is now being tested in patients.

About four million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes – the majority have type 2. This happens either because the body doesn’t make enough of the hormone insulin (which helps the muscles mop up excess sugar from the blood) or because the muscles cells do not respond well to insulin.

About four million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes - the majority have type 2 (File image)

About four million people in the UK have been 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 doesn’t make insulin because the immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells that produce it. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily. Nine out of ten people with diabetes have type 2, but it is usually diagnosed later in life.

Risk factors include being overweight, lack of exercise, family history and high blood pressure. In type 2, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use the insulin properly — treatments range from lifestyle changes to medications that help the body deal with the higher blood sugar levels. Most drugs work by stimulating the insulin system.

But ATR-258, developed by Atrogi, a company founded by Tore Bengtsson, a professor of physiology at Stockholm University, is a new class of drugs that bypass the insulin system. It acts on muscle receptors, stimulating the muscles to take glucose from the blood – to use for energy – and further lowers blood sugar independently of the pancreas and insulin.

Studies in rats showed that ATR-258 lowers blood glucose to healthy levels and increases insulin sensitivity, reducing the amount needed.

Nearly 80 people are taking part in the trial at CRS Clinical Research Services, Mannheim, Germany.

A new type of drug that prompts the body's muscles to absorb excess blood sugar could revolutionize the treatment of type 2 diabetes (File image)

A new type of drug that prompts the body’s muscles to absorb excess blood sugar could revolutionize the treatment of type 2 diabetes (File image)

“Current treatments for type 2 diabetes aim to overstimulate the already dysfunctional insulin system and rarely work well,” says Professor Bengtsson. ‘In the long run, this means poor effectiveness and a risk of serious disease. These problems can be prevented by our treatment.’

Commenting on the study, Dr. Ali Aldibbiat, a diabetes and endocrinology consultant in Kuwait and a researcher at Newcastle University, said: ‘It’s exciting to see drugs that are independent of insulin.

‘This allows patients with type 2 diabetes to be treated for longer, as internal insulin production tends to decline over time, making other treatments less effective.

“The genius of ATR-258 is that it hacks into the mechanism that allows sugar to enter cells for use as an energy source, a process that is otherwise completely dependent on insulin.”

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