The drug used in the study is a modified form of a medication that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has already approved for human use.
In Type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the body’s ability to use that insulin is degraded.
A major cause of insulin resistance is the accumulation of excess fat in the cells of the liver, as well as in muscle tissue.
“Our goal in this study was to find a safe and practical way of diminishing fat content in the liver. We used mice to perform proof-of-principle experiments in our laboratory,” said lead researcher Victor Shengkan Jin, an associate professor of pharmacology at the Rutgers University in the US.
“We succeeded in removing fat, and that in turn improved the animals’ ability to use insulin correctly and reduce blood sugar,” Jin added.
The modified medication – whose full name is niclosamide ethanolamine salt (NEN) – burned the excess fat in liver cells through a process known as mitochondrial uncoupling.
“We went to the literature and found an approved drug that does in parasitic worms what we wanted to do in liver cells,” Jin noted.
At present, the only way now known to cure Type 2 diabetes involves major gastric bypass surgery.
“The surgery can only be performed on highly obese people, and carries significant risks that include death, so it is not a realistic solution for most patients,” Jin pointed out.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.