Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Blood Samples Give Clue to How Key Diabetes Drug Works

Blood Samples Give Clue to How Key Diabetes Drug Works

BLOOD samples from people in Tayside have helped researchers learn more about a drug used to save the lives of diabetes sufferers.

Metformin has been used by millions of people with diabetes for more than 50 years, but scientists have never uncovered how it works.

Now, in a study using donated blood samples, scientists have discovered that a gene known as ATM can affect how the drug works.

The drug protects against heart disease, as well as eye and kidney disease, in people with type 2 diabetes – the most common form of the condition, which affects the amount of insulin the body can make.

Dr Ewan Pearson and Professor Colin Palmer, from the Biomedical Research Institute at Dundee University, used information from patients with diabetes and linked it to donated blood samples from 20,000 people in Tayside.

They were able to see how well metformin worked in nearly 3,000 people and discovered that ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) altered how well people respond to the drug.

Dr Pearson said: “We were expecting to find genes involved in blood-sugar regulation, so the finding that ATM is involved in metformin response was totally unexpected.

“Although ATM has been widely studied by cancer scientists, no one previously thought it had a role in how this commonly-used diabetes drug worked. Our finding, therefore, draws together mechanisms that protect against cancer and lower blood sugar, suggesting a new area for diabetes drug development.”


Prof Palmer added: “This is an important development in defining how individuals may respond differently to diabetes drugs, but further work is required before we have enough information to be able to reliably use genetic testing in the clinic to guide treatment of common forms of type 2 diabetes.”

The Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK jointly funded the research and have now provided Dr Pearson with money to continue the study.

Dr Iain Frame, research director at Diabetes UK, said: “The benefits for people with type 2 diabetes may not be immediate but any research that increases our knowledge of how effectively drugs work in different individuals is hugely important.”

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