An Indian-American professor in Texas Tech University may soon have an answer on how to cure or control diabetes in the most effective way possible till date. Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar says he is optimistic that he will come out with the most effective drug soon. He has a nearly $3 million backing for further research from Vital Health Interventions at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University to prove his point.
“It could happen, but may be. And maybe, I reiterate, in the near future. It is not going to happen overnight, and that is for sure,” Dhurandhar, a professor, and chairman of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech, told News India Times.
When he came to Texas Tech in November last year, he brought along both the project and the grant for continued research.
The story began some years ago when Dhurandhar noticed during his research on rodents that human adenovirus 36, which causes obesity in humans and animals, reduces blood sugar at the same time. “It’s a little paradoxical because you have an agent that is making an animal fatter, so you would expect their glucose levels to deteriorate,” he said.
Adenovirus is any of a group of DNA-containing viruses that cause conjunctivitis and upper respiratory tract infections in humans. The idea about a possible drug germinated then. He isolated a protein from adenovirus 36 responsible for reducing blood sugar and tested it on both diabetic cells and animals. Both experiments showed the protein improved diabetes, and other researchers doing similar experiments confirmed Dhurandhar’s results.
To develop a drug that eventually will be tested on humans could be a significant step forward in treating diabetes.
“That would take years. I do not want to give you false hopes. There is a great deal of promise in what I have found, but it will take a lot more time before the drug can be developed and tested on human beings,” he said.
In both types of diabetes: Type 1 that occurs when glucose builds up in the blood instead of being used by cells for energy production and Type 2 that is insulin resistant, and glucose can build up in the blood to dangerous levels.
So far, providing insulin or drugs that promote insulin are some of the main approaches to decrease glucose levels in the blood. The adenovirus protein Dhurandhar and his research team identified can reduce blood glucose levels in the absence of insulin and “without mimicking” the action of insulin.
Dhurandhar, who is president of The Obesity Society and one of the pioneers of the “infectobesity” movement, said that diabetes also affects the liver because glucose needed constantly by human beings, and provided by food is stored in the liver whenever there is an excess. Under normal circumstance, this stored glucose is released when a person is not eating, and the release is terminated when a person is eating. When you have Diabetes however, this release of glucose is uncontrolled and contributes to an increase in blood glucose levels.
“The beauty of this is that this protein acts independent of insulin. So, the drug we develop may work for Type 1 because it will act in the absence of insulin, or it could work in Type 2 in the presence of insulin resistance, or both” Dhurandhar said, a significant advance over currently available treatments.
“We do not have too many drugs right now to treat both. It also shows promise for curing liver fat accumulation. All the three in diabetic patients are connected. This drug, I think, can have three birds killed with one stone if you will,” Dhurandhar said.