Cornell team engineers a probiotic GLP-1 therapy for diabetes

GLP-1 treatments have become an important new class of diabetes drugs, offering a new way to control blood sugar among patients. Now a group of researchers at Cornell says it engineered a human probiotic that also had a similar effect in controlling blood glucose levels in rat models for the disease. And a biotech has already snagged the license on this work as they set the stage to try it in humans.

The researchers used a strain of lactobacillus found in the gut to spur secretion of GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide 1. After administering it to rats, they found that the rodents demonstrated a drop in high blood glucose levels of up to 30%.

During their proof of principle work, the researchers say that they found that upper intestinal epithelial cells in diabetic rats were converted into cells that acted very much like pancreatic beta cells, which monitor blood glucose levels and secrete insulin as needed to balance glucose levels in healthy individuals.

Cornell's John March

"The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal is the same as in a normal rat ... and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood," just as it would be with a normal-functioning pancreas, said John March, the paper's senior author. "It's moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine."

BioPancreate, a subsidiary of Sweden's Cortendo AB, has licensed the technology and now plans to work on a pill that could be used daily by diabetics. But it should also be noted that multiple teams have had success treating diabetes in animal studies over the years only to run into trouble trying to make the leap into the clinic.

- read the story from Cornell
- here's the release

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