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Light-activated drug could help manage Type 2 diabetes

October 21, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Scientists at Imperial College London and LMU Munich have developed a light-activated drug for Type 2 diabetes that can be switched on and off by using a blue LED light.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers reported that the new drug, designated JB253, stimulates the production of insulin when exposed to blue light.

While the drug remains inactive under normal conditions, blue light emitting diodes (LEDs) attached to the skin of the abdomen can be switched on for a short period of time after a meal to activate the drug—a re-engineered version of a standard sulfonylurea—which then promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas into the blood. Once the light is switched off, the drug becomes inactive again.

“Sulfonylureas help many people to manage Type 2 diabetes even though, like other medications, they can have side effects," said Dr. Richard Elliott of Diabetes UK in a press release. "Work on light-activated medications is still at a relatively early stage, but this is nevertheless a fascinating area of study that, with further research, could help to produce a safer, more tightly-controllable version of this important therapy.”