Lipodystrophy is a condition that causes fat to be stored differently in the liver, muscle and pancreas. This can lead to a form of type 2 diabetes that is difficult to manage with diet. Dr Justin Rochford and his team want to investigate if medications that are used to treat the two conditions separately could be combined to manage this difficult form of type 2 diabetes more easily.
Background to research
Lipodystrophy is a condition that causes fat tissue to develop and behave differently to normal fat tissue. When people with lipodystrophy consume fats and sugars in their diet, their body can’t store them inside the fat tissue like usual, so the fat and sugar goes to the liver, muscle and pancreas. This can lead to a form of type 2 diabetes that is more difficult to manage.
People with lipodystrophy also have a lower levels of a hormone called leptin. Leptin is usually released by fat cells, and its job is to reduce your appetite by helping you to feel full after eating. Without leptin, people can feel hungrier for longer, which can make it difficult to manage type 2 diabetes through diet.
There is already a drug prescribed to help reduce hunger, called lorcaserin. The researchers want to test whether this drug could be used alongside metformin, a common type 2 diabetes medication, to help control appetite and manage type 2 diabetes at the same time in people with lipodystrophy.
The researchers will test the drugs in mice with type 2 diabetes and lipodystrophy. They will give the mice lorcaserin on its own or in combination with metformin. They will study how the drugs affect blood sugar levels, blood pressure and appetite, as well looking out for any improvements in kidney, pancreas or liver function.
As both drugs work in different ways, the researchers hope that the combination could make it easier to manage this particularly difficult form of type 2 diabetes, improving both health and quality of life.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
Currently, the only treatment for lipodystrophy is a drug form of leptin. This involves daily injections, is expensive and can stop working in some people. Research like this could lead to a more effective and manageable treatment for people living with type 2 diabetes and lipodystrophy. As both drugs are already available on the market, this could rapidly become available for people with lipodystophy who are struggling to manage their type 2 diabetes.