New synthetic binding molecule platform developed

The new molecule may change diabetes treatment methods

A new glucose binding synthetic molecule platform is setting researchers en course to develop a glucose-responsive insulin for the first time in medical history. 

Under the leadership of Professor Anthony Davis, a team from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry together with company Ziylo, have developed a new synthetic glucose binding molecule platform that is set to become the main component for the next generation of insulin. Such next-gen insulin may have the ability to be glucose-responsive by being able to react and adapt to glucose levels in the blood. Such an adaptive mechanism, would avoid hypoglycemia and enable a more adequate metabolic control for diabetic patients.

More than 300 million people suffering from diabetes globally, with all type I and some type II diabetes patients requiring insulin to control glucose levels in their blood. Prof. Davis, who has been engaged with the research of synthetic sugar receptors for two decades, explained that despite gradual achievements in the field, there were “never sufficient for practical applications”. With this new molecule, they have solved a key problem that has the prospects of transforming the treatment of diabetes worldwide.

The molecule, explains Prof. Davis, “binds glucose 100 times more strongly than any (...) previous efforts and is almost perfectly selective for its target. It is fully comparable with the natural molecules that bind glucose, despite being many times smaller." For years, researchers attempted to design a molecule that would bind glucose strongly in its natural water environment, but the latest molecule goes much further and may help to develop an insulin that is inactive when glucose is not present.

The prospects of developing such a glucose-responsive insulin are now within reach, and with it, the opportunity to free patients from the risks and threats of extremely low sugar levels in the blood. Another practical application opened by this finding is the potential development of continuous glucose monitoring, giving diabetes patients the capacity to track glucose levels at all times of the day.

This groundbreaking research results, for Prof. Davis, is not only focused to save many lives and improve livelihoods, but it has also shown that “synthetic molecules can match the performance of evolved natural molecular proteins, despite this task being unusually difficult”.

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