Trinity researchers contribute to diabetes breakthrough

The discovery was made by a team led by Dr John Stephens of Maynooth University and including researchers from a number of Irish third-level institutions.


Researchers from a number of Irish third-level institutions, including Trinity College Dublin, collaborated in the discovery of a series of new compounds whose anti-diabetic effects mimic those of exercise, marking a significant breakthrough in diabetes research.

The new findings are the result of five years of work by a team headed by Dr John Stephens of the National University of Ireland Maynooth’s (NUIM) department of chemistry. The team also included collaborators from NUIM’s department of biology, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Trinity College and the University of Leeds.

Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormally high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

The new compound mimics the effects of exercise on the body’s cells. Exercise requires cells to convert more glucose into usable energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) than they would while the body is in a rest state. The new compound makes it more difficult for cells to convert glucose into ATP. This means that the cells take up more glucose than they otherwise would, thereby minimising the elevated levels of glucose that exist in the blood of people with type 2 diabetes.

The newly discovered series of compounds have shown the ability to improve glucose handling and to reduce weight gain in laboratory studies at considerably lower doses than those required by existing therapies. As such, they may prevent some of the intestinal problems associated with the existing higher dose therapies.

Speaking about the discovery, Dr Stephens said: “The benefits of exercise for those suffering with type 2 diabetes have been well documented… The discovery of this series of new compounds that mimic these benefits is a significant development in the treatment of diabetes.”

He added that: “We are now looking forward to our next phase of research, which will see us undertake further lab studies and early clinical trials. We are still a long way from seeing this reflected on the shelves in pharmacies; however, these compounds have the potential to become an important tool for the treatment of type 2 diabetes for future generations.”