Die, diabetes

Courtesy of Haim Cohen and David Sinclair / Harvard Medical School
The paper:

J. Milne et al., “Small molecule activators of SIRT1 as therapeutics for the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” Nature, 450: 712–16, 2007. (Cited in 145 papers)

The finding:

Scientists at Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Harvard University developed approximately 3,000 small molecules that mimic resveratrol, which extends life span and protects against age-related diseases (such as Type 2 diabetes) by activating a protein called SIRT1. In diabetic mice, these new compounds were up to 1,000 times more potent than resveratrol and had the same beneficial effects for treating diabetes—they improved insulin sensitivity, lowered glucose levels in the blood, and increased the capacity of mitochondria.

The impact:

“We want to translate these molecules into drugs people can take to treat diseases of aging, such as Type 2 diabetes,” says Christoph Westphal, an author on the paper...

The limitations:

Increasing SIRT1 activity could combat a slew of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration and cancer, Fred Meijer, a retired professor of biochemistry at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, writes in an email. However, for Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with poor diet, activation of SIRT1 and similar proteins “will not help to combat the disease unless food intake is also diminished at the same time,” he adds.

The future:

Westphal says that the company is currently conducting clinical trials in diabetics using these compounds, with results to be published in the next few years.

Benefits of SIRT1 activators:
Extend lifespanImprove insulin sensitivity
Lower glucose toleranceIncrease mitochondrial number
Enhance liver insulin sensitivity

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