New research project seeks to find innovative treatment pathways for Type 2 diabetes and obesity

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A team of Virginia Tech researchers was awarded nearly $2 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health, to explore novel approaches for treating Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 38.4 million Americans, with an estimated 1.4 million new cases diagnosed every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body struggles to regulate blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance or insufficient insulin production by the pancreas, or sometimes both. Despite the widespread use of conventional drugs for treating Type 2 diabetes, its prevalence continues to rise in the United States.

The multidisciplinary research project, led by principal investigator Dongmin Liu, a professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, unites experts across diverse fields. The team includes co-investigators Elizabeth Gilbert, professor in the School of Animal Sciences; Mark Cline, professor in the School of Neuroscience; Jennifer Davis, a professor in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Inyoung Kim, a professor of statistics in the College of Science; and Richard Helm, professor of biochemistry.

The team of researchers will study the impact of a derivative of secoiridoid, a natural compound found in certain plants like olives, on blood sugar control and obesity, which are often precursors to Type 2 diabetes. This compound is promising, as it's been shown to be more effective in lowering blood sugar and managing body weight, especially when compared with metformin, the first-line glucose-lowering drug for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

We hope that this research could potentially pave the way for innovative, safe, and improved therapies targeting both obesity and diabetes."

Dongmin Liu, professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech

The research team aims to pinpoint how this compound functions in the body to create these metabolic benefits. They'll also analyze its journey through the body-;examining how it's absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted-;to ensure its safety for possible future clinical trials.

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