Yonsei researchers find novel autophagy enhancer as new diabetes therapy

Marian Chu  Published 2018.04.13  13:07  Updated 2018.04.13 13:07


Researchers from Yonsei University Medical School have found a new autophagic enhancer that regulates autophagy activity, with the substance shown to have a therapeutic effect on diabetes.

Professor Lee Myung-shik

Autophagy refers to the phenomenon of cells destroying its contents. Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2016.

The process plays a crucial role in the control of metabolism and maintaining intracellular homeostasis and cellular physiology. Since Ohsumi’s discovery, many scholars worldwide have found that dysregulation of autophagy leads to the development of degenerative neurological diseases and cancers.

The research team led by Professor Lee Myung-shik from Yonsei University College of Medicine studied the relationship between autophagy and diabetes in the past 10 years, becoming the first in the world to identify that the lack of it is an important cause of obesity-related diabetes.

Using a chemical compound library with 7,520 compounds provided by the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, the researchers screened for substances that increase self-reproductive activity to find a new drug candidate for diabetes and metabolic syndrome with lipid overload.

The researchers also found that a chemically modified MSL with increased microsomal stability improved the glucose profile of mice with ob/ob mice and also of mice that are obese due to diet.

"It is important to point out that diabetes can be treated through the promotion of autophagy. Unlike previous diabetes treatments, a new concept of therapeutic drug development based on the cause of diabetes has been suggested,” the researchers wrote.

“The authors concluded that MSL could be used as a therapeutic drug for obesity-related diabetes mellitus with autophagy enhancement to be applied not only to diabetes but also to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and aging-suppressing therapy,” they added.

The results were published in Nature Communications under the title of “A novel autophagy enhancer as a therapeutic agent against metabolic syndrome and diabetes.”

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