A drug used to treat asthma and mouth ulcers has shown promise in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in obesity, according to a study in mice.
Researchers found that obese mice treated with the drug amlexanox not only lost a significant amount of weight, but their insulin sensitivity returned to normal and they showed a reversal of their fatty liver condition.
The results are published today in Nature Medicine.
“Amlexanox seems to be a relatively safe drug with a long history of use in patients [and] as such, there might be an interesting opportunity for repurposing this agent for diabetes and obesity,” the authors write.
The drug, which is available in Japan and the US, inhibits the activity of two genes associated with inflammation in fat and liver cells in obesity.
“We have been studying the inflammatory events that occur in cells in states of obesity, mostly in mice, and these two genes are in a family of genes that we figured out played some role in the effects of inflammation,” says co-author Dr Alan Saltiel, professor and director of the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan.
Genetically engineered mice with those particular genes knocked out seem resistant to the development of obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver and inflammation, even on a high-fat diet.
“So we decided to look for a chemical compound that would block the effects of the protein that’s encoded by this gene,” Saltiel says.
After screening 150,000 compounds, the best candidate turned out to be amlexanox – a drug originally developed for the treatment of asthma; a disease in which inflammation plays a key role. Read more.