Media Releases

U of T researcher reveals the gut’s role in effects of diabetes drug

April 10, 2015

TORONTO, ON — Two new stud­ies show the poten­tial of tar­get­ing the gut in treat­ing dia­betes.

Until now, sci­en­tists always assumed Met­formin, the world’s most com­mon type 2 dia­betes treat­ment, worked direct­ly on the liv­er. But U of T researchers found it acts first on the gut. They found the same results when test­ing resver­a­trol, the com­pound found in red wine.

Tony Lam, a Pro­fes­sor of Phys­i­ol­o­gy and Med­i­cine, and his team showed that the gut is respon­si­ble for sens­ing both Met­formin and resver­a­trol and then sig­nalling the brain to reduce glu­cose pro­duc­tion in the liv­er. Uncov­er­ing the gut’s cru­cial role in dia­betes treat­ment could help sci­en­tists design med­ica­tions that focus on the gut, rather than the liv­er – a major advan­tage.

“We already knew that the brain and liv­er reg­u­late blood glu­cose lev­els, but how do you tar­get either of these two organs with­out side effects?” asks Prof. Lam, who holds the Cana­da Research Chair in Obe­si­ty & John Kit­son McIvor Endowed Chair in Dia­betes Research.

“We may have found a way around this prob­lem by sug­gest­ing the small intes­tine can be the ini­tial tar­get instead,” adds Lam, who is also Asso­ciate Direc­tor of Research at U of T’s Bant­i­ng and Best Dia­betes Cen­tre and Senior Sci­en­tist at the Toron­to Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal Research Insti­tute.

The gut is accus­tomed to deal­ing with new sub­stances, and adapts to treat­ment bet­ter than the brain or liv­er, lead­ing to few­er side effects, says Lam.

It’s sig­nif­i­cant that Lam found the same results with both Met­formin and resver­a­trol. The sub­stances are dif­fer­ent from each oth­er, but both trig­gered mol­e­cules in the gut that helped low­er blood glu­cose. This adds to the evi­dence for devel­op­ing new treat­ments focussed specif­i­cal­ly on the gut.

Lam empha­sized that it will take a num­ber of years of exper­i­men­tal work to deter­mine whether the cur­rent find­ings, which were dis­cov­ered in rodents, are rel­e­vant in humans.​

Two relat­ed stud­ies were pub­lished back‑to-back online in Nature Med­i­cine on April 6, 2015.

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For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Liam Mitchell
Asso­ciate Direc­tor, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to