Scientists at Roche have discovered a new class of drug that may be of use in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes. The compounds work by increasing the activity of glucokinase, an enzyme involved in the regulation of glucose levels, and appears to combine the activities of two commonly used classes of antidiabetic.
In preclinical studies, the glucokinase activators (GKAs) have been shown to increase the efficiency of the enzyme and reduce glucose levels in animal models of diabetes.
"The glucokinase enzyme is the body's first step in breaking down or metabolising glucose," explained Joseph Grippo, Roche's vice president of metabolic diseases. "When the enzyme is functioning normally, GK helps the body maintain glucose levels by controlling the release of insulin from the pancreas as well as the disposal of glucose in the liver," he added.
Grippo said the GKA compound is unique because it stimulates the pancreas to release more insulin and also keeps the liver from producing too much glucose. Currently many diabetic patients are given two medications to achieve this dual action: sulfonylureas and metformin.
Roche's interest in the GK enzyme followed a key discovery made in 1992 that showed a small subset of diabetes, known as maturity onset diabetes of the young type 2 (MODY2), is caused by mutations in the GK gene.