A team of researchers at Virginia Tech has received nearly $2 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, a part of the National Institutes of Health, to research novel approaches for treating type-2 diabetes and obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 38.4 million Americans are affected by type-2 diabetes, with an estimated 1.4 million new cases diagnosed each year. Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body struggles to regulate blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance or insufficient insulin production by the pancreas, or sometimes both. Despite the widespread use of conventional medications to treat type-2 diabetes, its prevalence continues to rise in the United States.
The multidisciplinary research project, led by principal investigator Dongmin Liu, professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, brings together experts from various fields. The team includes co-investigators Elizabeth Gilbert, professor in the School of Animal Sciences; Mark Cline, professor in the School of Neuroscience; Jennifer Davis, professor in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Inyoung Kim, professor of statistics in the College of Science; and Richard Helm, professor of biochemistry.
The research team will investigate the impact of a secoiridoid derivative, a natural compound found in certain plants like olives, on blood sugar control and obesity, which are common precursors to type-2 diabetes. This compound is promising because it has shown to be more effective in lowering blood sugar and controlling body weight, especially compared to metformin, the first-line blood sugar-lowering agent for patients with type-2 diabetes.
„We hope that this research may pave the way for innovative, safe, and improved therapies against obesity and diabetes.“
– Dongmin Liu, Professor of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech
The research team aims to understand how this compound functions in the body to achieve these metabolic benefits. They will also analyze its journey through the body and study how it is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted to ensure its safety for potential future clinical trials.