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By Michael Le Page Andriy Popov / Alamy Stock Photo An experimental drug for treating type 2 diabetes appears to have many beneficial effects. Experiments in animals found that the drug reduces blood sugar levels and the amount mice eat, while maintaining muscle mass and increasing bone density. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body fails to respond to insulin released to lower blood sugar levels. The resulting high blood sugar levels can seriously damage many parts of the body. It’s estimated that 370 million worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and this number is expected to double by 2030 as obesity levels keep rising. How medicine is harnessing our natural defences: Daniel Davis at New Scientist Live There are already some drugs for treating type 2 diabetes, but better ones are needed. Metformin is widely prescribed to lower blood sugar, for instance, but it does not usually cause weight loss and some people stop taking it because of side effects such as diarrhea and flatulence. Advertisement Mark Febbraio at Monash University in Australia and his colleagues have developed an alternative drug based on signalling proteins. These bind to a receptor called gp13 found on many cells in our body and that are known to have beneficial effects on the metabolism. To create the drug, the team combined parts of two different human signalling proteins and made various other tweaks to create a designer signalling protein called IC7Fc. When they injected the protein into obese mice, it had multiple beneficial effects including lowering blood sugar levels. The animals also ate less, lost weight and had increased bone density. This weight loss was due to fat loss; there was no decline in muscle mass. By contrast, obese mice that were simply fed less without getting IC7Fc lost muscle mass as well as fat. In people, losing weight can be enough to restore normal blood sugar levels. The drug also prevented the build-up of fat in the liver. Initial experiments in monkeys seem to back up the findings. Read more: First drug to help you live longer could go on trial next year No existing drug has as many beneficial effects on health and metabolism, the team says, and if it works in people it could be especially helpful for the elderly because of its effects on muscle and bone. Because the drug consists of a protein it has to be injected rather than taken in pill form. But only one injection a week would be needed. Febbraio is now trying to get funding for human trials. Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1601-9 More on these topics: diabetes