Newly identified drug can be used as oral treatment for diabetes: IIT study

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Newly identified drug can be used as oral treatment for diabetes: IIT study

  • Researchers at IIT Mandi have identified a drug molecule that can be used to treat diabetes.
  • The molecule, called PK2, is able to trigger the release of insulin by the pancreas, and can potentially be used as an orally administered medicine for diabetes.

Current Treatment

  • Diabetes is associated with insufficient insulin release by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to blood glucose levels.
  • The release of insulin entails many intricate biochemical processes.
    • One such process involves protein structures called GLP1R present in the cells.
    • In one such process, a hormonal molecule, called GLP1, released after the ingestion of a meal, binds to proteins, called GLP1R.
      • This triggers the release of insulin.
  • Current drugs used for the treatment of diabetes, such as exenatide and liraglutide, mimic GLP1 and bind to GLP1R to trigger insulin release
    • However, these drugs are administered as injections, and they are costly and unstable after administration.

Oral Option

  • PK2 was rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract, which means that it can be used as an oral medication rather than an injection.
  • After two hours of administration, PK2 was found distributed in the liver, kidney, and pancreas of the mice, but there were no traces of it in the heart, lungs, and spleen.
  • There was a small amount present in the brain, which shows that the molecule may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

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  • It was cleared from circulation in about 10 hours.
  • Beyond increasing insulin release, PK2 was also able to prevent and even reverse beta cell loss, a cell essential for insulin production, making it effective for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
  • To test the biological effects of PK2, the researchers administered it orally to experimental mice developing diabetes and measured glucose levels and insulin secretion.
  • There was a six-fold increase in serum insulin levels in PK2-treated mice over the control group.


  • It is a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or glucose), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
  • Type I diabetes: It mostly affects children of age 14-16 years. This type occurs when the body fails to produce sufficient insulin. They must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes: While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. The population with 45 and above age group is the most affected with it.
    • This is the most common type of diabetes and it has strong links with obesity.
  • Gestational diabetes: This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body sometimes becomes less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.
  • Diabetes affects the five major organs – Kidney, Heart, Blood vessels, Nervous System, and Eyes (retina).
  • Responsible factors: Unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful use of alcohol, overweight/obesity, tobacco use, etc.

Government Initiatives

  • In line with WHO’s Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020, India aims to reduce number of premature deaths by 25% and control NCDs by 2025
  • Target 3 of India’s National NCDs Targets: Halt the rise in obesity and diabetes prevalence
  • Key action points include:
    • Implement promotion of breastfeeding policies
    • Develop and conduct evidence based public health campaign for early detection and treatment of obesity and diabetes; and promotion of healthy food options
    • Develop and promote nutrition policies to limit content of sugar in food and non-alcoholic beverages, limit excess calorie intake, reduce portion size and energy density of foods
    • Develop and implement policy measures for food producers and processors for reducing saturated fatty acids in food and replacing them with unsaturated fatty acids, and replacing trans fats with unsaturated fats in food products
    • Develop and implement policies and guidelines on marketing of foods and beverages to children
    • Reduce tax and increase subsidies on food products containing unsaturated fats
    • Create health and nutrition monitoring environments in educational institutions, work places, health facilities etc.
    • Promote physical activity through public awareness campaigns, promotion of physical activity in schools, creation and maintenance of spaces meant for physical activity.
  • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in 2010
  • Objectives:
    • Health promotion, Awareness generation and promotion of healthy lifestyle
    • Management of chronic Non-Communicable diseases, especially Cancer, Diabetes, CVDs and Stroke through early diagnosis, treatment and follow up through setting up of NCD clinics
    • Provide support for diagnosis and cost effective treatment at various levels of health care
    • Capacity Building at various levels of health care for prevention, early diagnosis, treatment.

Exam Track

Prelims Takeaway

  • World Diabetes Day - theme etc
  • Steps taken by Government of India for controlling diabetes

Mains Track

Q. The recent advancements in studies related to diabetes show significant developments. Still it is going to take a long time to eradicate this menace from the world. Comment.