Researchers with the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London and LMU Munich in Germany are developing a type 2 diabetes drug that can be switched off and on with a blue light, potentially improving treatment.
Many type 2 diabetes drugs encourage the pancreas to release insulin to control blood sugar levels, but they can also cause side effects to other organs. Other drugs encourage too much insulin release, causing blood sugar levels to drop to dangerously low levels. The prototype drug, called JB253, is designed to stimulate insulin release from pancreatic cells only when it is exposed to blue light.
Researchers have adapted currently available type 2 diabetes drug sulfonylurea so that it changes its shape when subjected to LED light. In theory, this new therapy could allow better control over blood sugar levels because it can be switched on for a short time when need after a meal. It could also reduce complications by targeting drug activity to where it is needed in the pancreas.
The way the photoswitchable drug works is simple. Patients consume the medication with a meal. Then, a blue light is applied to the abdomen with just a small amount of the light penetrating the skin. This causes the drug to change and become active. The active drug promotes pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. When the light is turned off, the drug switches off, giving patients better control over blood sugar.
JB253 is still years from being available as a treatment option for patients but researchers are optimistic. Especially since complications from diabetes medications can be just as life threatening as the disease itself.
Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of serious health complications including heart disease, kidney disease, some cancers, dementia, blindness and amputations due to neuropathy. Type 2 diabetes medications help control blood sugar levels and protect against complications but many of the drugs carry cancer risks. For example, Actos has been linked to bladder cancer, and Januvia and Byetta have been linked to cases of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Source: Medical News Today