LoneStar Heart Inc. announced that it has acquired a worldwide exclusive license from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) to commercialize a new class of patented small molecules known as Isoxazoles that markedly increase insulin production in human pancreas cells no longer able to produce insulin. Activating the entire biochemical pathway involved in insulin production, the molecules may represent a new approach to developing treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"Our exclusive license with UT Southwestern builds upon previous licensing agreements with broad coverage for the small molecules involved," explained Frank Ahmann, president and chief operating officer of LoneStar Heart Inc. "Research at UT Southwestern has shown that, in addition to their potential application to diabetes, they may also modulate the differentiation of stem cells into nerve cells, and they can induce a population of progenitor cells found in the heart to become cardiac muscle cells." Progenitor cells are a type of adult stem cell that is further differentiated toward becoming its target cell, and act as a repair system for the body.
Small Molecules Provide Dramatic Improvement in Malfunctioning Pancreas Cells
As reported in the December 20, 2011 issue of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the research was conducted by Elhadji Dioum Ph.D. and other UT Southwestern researchers led by Jay W. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of cardiology and internal medicine, and professor Melanie H. Cobb, Ph.D. They showed Isoxazoles were able to induce insulin expression in human beta cells two-to-twelve months old that progressively lose their ability to produce insulin. Beta cells of the pancreas are responsible for secreting insulin, the hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood. Preliminary experiments in mice indicate the compounds have little toxicity. "Isoxazole is among relatively few single molecules known that can improve beta-cell function dramatically," the study concludes.
Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes), or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced (type 2 diabetes). More than one-third of the U.S adult population is at risk for type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of the disease. During the development of type 2 diabetes, beta cells become progressively unable to produce insulin, causing the blood sugar to rise dangerously, leading to increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetic retinopathy where eye sight is affected, and kidney failure.
The research is part of LoneStar Heart's broad program of developing small molecules and proteins that have the capacity to switch native, cardiac stem cells into adult heart muscle cells as a means of restoring and repairing damaged heart tissue. These mechanisms are typically repressed in adult hearts injured by myocardial infarction, advanced age, and other diseases.