Inflammatory Bowel Disease Drug Effective in Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment found to lower blood sugar levels in obese mice.

Treatment found to lower blood sugar levels in obese mice.

A drug commonly used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease, was found to be a potentially effective treatment for diabetes.

During a recent study, the drug 5-ASA (mesalamine) lowered the blood sugar levels in obese mice, which indicated the gut immune system may offer an effective new target to treat diabetes.

"These results are novel and important because we have identified the immune system that lives in the gut as a new player in the control of blood sugar. This opens up the entire field of bowel immunology to the study of obesity and its complications such as high blood sugar," co-senior author Dan Winer said in a press release.

The study, published online in the journal Cell Metabolism on April 7, 2015, considered how obesity contributes to insulin resistance. The study authors previously demonstrated immune cells within abdominal fat cause the release of chemicals that make the body less insulin sensitive.

For the current study, the researchers found that feeding mice a high-fat, high-calorie diet led to larger amounts of pro-inflammatory immune cells, with less of the regulating cells that help end an immune response, than those found in normal mice.

Similar results were found in 14 humans, half of whom were obese. The high-fat diet was found to cause inflammatory changes in the bowel immune cells.

These changes upset the immune balance to generate chemicals that damaged the bowel wall and allowed bacterial products to leak into the blood stream. The leakage of bacterial products contributes to insulin resistance with cells that no longer respond to and utilize insulin effectively to stabilize blood sugar.

"If we could block the pro-inflammatory immune cells at the very beginning of this process, we could treat the disease more effectively," co-senior author Shawn Winer said in a press release. "By refocusing on the bowel, we open up many more therapeutic options as we already have a number of approved drugs available to treat an inflamed bowel."

Treatment with 5-ASA significantly lowered blood sugar in the mice to near normal levels.

"By using this drug, we found that we could prevent type 2 diabetes in mice," Dan Winer said. "If this works in humans, it could change the whole field of diabetes prevention and treatment."