Scientists at Indiana University and international collaborators have found a way to link two hormones into a single molecule, producing a more effective therapy with fewer side effects for potential use as treatment for obesity and related medical conditions.
The studies were carried out in the laboratories of Richard DiMarchi, the Standiford H. Cox Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and the Linda & Jack Gill Chair in Biomolecular Sciences in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, and of Matthias Tschöp, professor of medicine and director of the Institute of Diabetes and Obesity, Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany. Results were published online this week by the journal Nature Medicine.
Researchers combined a peptide hormone from the digestive system, GLP-1, with the hormone estrogen and administered it to obese laboratory mice. While both GLP-1 and estrogen have demonstrated efficacy as therapy for obesity and adult-onset diabetes, the combination was more effective in producing weight loss and other beneficial results than using either compound on its own. And it produced fewer adverse effects, such as excessive tissue growth linked to tumor formation.
"We find that combining the hormones as a single molecule dramatically enhanced their efficacy and their safety," DiMarchi said. "The combination improves the ability to lower body weight and the ability to manage glucose, and it does so without showing the hallmark toxicities associated with estrogen."
The researchers believe GLP-1 acts as a "medicinal chaperone," targeting estrogen to the hypothalamus and pancreas, which are involved with metabolic processes. The precise targeting reduces the likelihood that the estrogen will produce negative effects, such as cancer and stroke.