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Oregon State research could help diabetes drug production, lower cost

Research revealed how an important compound for diabetes treatment is created in nature. Now, scientists hope to replicate the process.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A newly published study by Oregon State University researchers reveals new information about an important compound used in diabetes medication.

Researchers examined how bacteria in soil produces acarbose, a compound that helps normalize blood glucose levels in people. 

It is currently used in a type 2 diabetes drug to treat the disease, which affects about one in 10 Americans.

"We want to understand how this natural compound is made," explained professor Taifo Mahmud with OSU's College of Pharmacy.

Until now, the bacterial production process of acarbose was not well understood. However, research revealed a natural sequence of steps by enzymes to create the chemical reaction.

Researchers plan to use that new knowledge to replicate the process.

"We can manipulate the system for our own purposes," Mahmud said.

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According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects nearly 500 million adults worldwide. Demand is rising for effective treatment drugs using acarbose.

"[We hope to] lower costs," Mahmud said. "And then also broaden access of the compounds to the population."

He said the work is meaningful to him and his OSU team.

"Satisfying that you know that what you produce will be useful to the society," Mahmud said.

The team's findings were published in the journal Nature Communications. You can read more here

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