An international study led by Australian researchers from Monash University has uncovered an experimental drug that could treat obesity, diabetes and loss of muscle mass.
A compound called IC7Fc could improve glucose metabolism and prevent weight gain, early studies show.
Type 2 diabetes costs the Australian health care system more than $6 billion annually and affects more than 1.5 million Australians.
An international research team led by the university, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and The Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute has established that an experimental drug for obesity related metabolic diseases could be tested in humans in the very near future.
The study, published in September in the journal Nature, indicates that IC7Fc could improve glucose metabolism and prevent weight gain.
It could provide a welcome relief for disease sufferers, with no reported side effects in preliminary experiments.
Led by Professor Mark Febbraio of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the 13-year study has confirmed that the protein is safe in several preclinical models.
"This is the first time that we have demonstrated pharmacological evidence that we could treat obesity, type 2 diabetes, muscle loss and a loss of bone density with a single drug. These aging related diseases have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, while putting stress on the Australian health care system," Professor Febbraio said.
Researchers showed that IC7Fc improves glucose tolerance and hyperglycemia, and prevents weight gain and liver steatosis in mice.
The ability of IC7Fc to induce muscle hypertrophy - an increase in the size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of component cells - is vital since increased muscle mass reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Professor Ferraro says there are no current drugs on the market that have these multiple, positive benefits on overall health and metabolism.
"Despite the presence of a number of well-established drug classes for treating type 2 diabetes, there is still a significant unmet need for a drug that halts, or reverses, disease progression," he said.
"A drug such as the IC7Fc could not only treat diabetes but could be harnessed to treat muscle mass loss, regulate food intake and frailty as well."
Having passed preclinical hurdles, IC7Fc is poised to enter phase one human clinical trials in the near future.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia.