Antimalarial drug offers means to tackle diabetes
medwireNews: Researchers find that an existing medication causes α cells to become functionally similar to β cells.
Knowing that loss of the master regulatory transcription factor Arx in mice is sufficient to convert α cells into β cells, the researchers used a cell-based assay to screen molecules for their ability to suppress ARX. This identified an artemisinin – artemether, an antimalarial drug – which suppressed ARX, thus inducing insulin production within α cells, without compromising cell viability.
As reported in Cell, the team confirmed the effects of artemether in zebrafish, mice, and rats, as well as in intact islets from human donors.
In a press statement, study author Stefan Kubicek (CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria) stressed that the long-term effects of artemether treatment remain to be established, and that the newly converted α to β cells will require protection from autoimmunity in patients with type 1 diabetes.
“But we are confident that the discovery of artemisinins and their mode of action can form the foundation for a completely new therapy of type 1 diabetes,” he said.
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