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Curtin investigates new treatments for diabetes

Media release

A group of Curtin University researchers have been awarded a Diabetes Australia Research Trust Grant for research to improve diabetes treatment, potentially eliminating the need for insulin injection.

Professor Philip Newsholme, Professor Erik Helmerhorst, Dr Kylie Munyard and Dr Cyril Mamotte, from Curtin’s School of Biomedical Sciences, will work collaboratively to define the molecular nature of a key event in insulin action, namely binding of insulin (or insulin-like drugs) with the insulin receptor.

Professor Newsholme said the development of new medicines that might replace insulin injections for diabetics demands an intimate understanding of how the hormone insulin communicates with cells and this research would focus on that relationship.

“We know that the first step in the process of communication is the interaction of the insulin molecule with a cell-based protein called the insulin receptor,” he said.

“However, despite many years of intensive research, the molecular and biophysical nature of this interaction is still not well understood.

“This project will use highly sophisticated, real-time biosensor technology to study the interaction of insulin with its receptor within micro-particles called lipoparticles.”

This approach will provide a better understanding of how various membrane components affect the interaction of insulin binding with the insulin receptor, and a novel platform for screening for new anti-diabetic drugs.

“The ultimate goal of research in this area is discovery of therapeutic mechanisms to enhance activation of the insulin receptor molecule,” said Professor Newsholme.

“If we could eliminate the need of injectable insulin for people with diabetes, it could radically change the way we treat diabetes and improve the long-term health of thousands of insulin-injecting diabetics.”
The grant is for $59,100 and the project, which would not have been possible without this funding, is due to commence in February 2013.