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Researchers Find Clue to Treating Diabetes

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Researchers in Auckland have decoded the structure of a molecule that may provide clues for a new type of diabetes drug.

Through a combination of biology and chemistry, researchers at the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery have mapped the atomic structure of myo-inositol oxygenase (MIOX), a key enzyme involved in the body’s metabolism of sugars.

Details of the structure, outlined in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may allow researchers at the Wilkins Centre to create a new class of drug for the treatment of diabetes.

MIOX is the enzyme known to break down inositol compounds and is a key regulator of inositol levels in the body.

High levels of MIOX and the subsequent reduction in inositol are linked to hyperglycaemia, the increase of glucose in the blood and a symptom of diabetes.

By unravelling the structure of MIOX, researchers can use rational drug design and medicinal chemistry to develop drugs that inhibit MIOX activity.

Reduction of this activity should normalise inositol levels and lower glucose levels in diabetes.

"This is a very exciting discovery for our team, and a testament to the multidisciplinary approach of the Centre," says Professor Ted Baker, Director of the Wilkins Centre.

"Diabetes is a major problem, not just in New Zealand but globally. It is through gathering knowledge of biological mechanisms that we can hope to treat and prevent diseases such as this effectively in the future."

"We are working with our partner Industrial Research Limited to use this knowledge of MIOX to develop drugs for the future treatment of diabetes."