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Health News

Towards a New Drug Class in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

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Towards a New Drug Class in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes 

Type 2 diabetes is a major public health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. Developing new drugs to help better treat its underlying causes is therefore a research priority.

In a new study coordinated by Inserm researcher Vincent Marion in collaboration with Monash University, the University of Birmingham (UK), and Alexander Fleming, former senior endocrinologist at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the scientists have developed PATAS, a peptide that is part of a new class of antidiabetic drugs. PATAS can correct the metabolic abnormalities leading to type 2 diabetes and its associated comorbidities which include insulin resistance(1).

PATAS works by specifically targeting the adipocytes (fat cells) (2), restoring glucose entry and thus correcting and re-establishing the metabolic physiology of the adipose tissue. The teams hope to set up a clinical trial soon to test this new therapy. Their study has been published in the journal Diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that affects 537 million people worldwide, with the majority affected by type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood (see box), has been increasing for decades due to population aging, inactivity, and poor diet. The age of onset is also decreasing, and although the disease is considered to be an “adult disease”, it is now seen frequently in adolescents and children.

Available drugs treat the consequences of type 2 diabetes by focusing mainly on lowering blood glucose; they do not target the underlying biological mechanism that causes the disease. Despite the urgency for developing new and more effective treatments, there have been no disruptive therapeutic innovations to reach market in over a decade.

And this is precisely the objective of the research led by Inserm researcher Vincent Marion and his team at the Medical Genetics Laboratory (Inserm/Université de Strasbourg). In a recent study in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and Monash University, the scientists have developed a product called PATAS in a new class of diabetes drugs called “Adipeutics” (for therapies that specifically target the adipocytes).

Their study, conducted on animal models, shows that this new therapy specifically restores glucose uptake in the adipocytes, resulting in the treatment of insulin resistance with beneficial effects on the whole body. This is made all the more promising by the fact that treating insulin resistance has the potential to address not only type 2 diabetes but a large array of serious medical conditions that result from this resistance.

 

Type 2 diabetes in brief 

Diabetes mellitus is characterized by excessive blood glucose levels over a prolonged period of time: this is known as hyperglycemia.

Hyperglycemia is caused by a reduced sensitivity of the cells, particularly those in the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue, to insulin. This is known as “insulin resistance.”

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas whose role is to facilitate the entry of glucose into the body cells as their main source of energy.  To meet the increased demand for insulin caused by the cells’ resistance to this hormone, the pancreas produces even more insulin, depleting the body requirements. Insulin production then becomes insufficient and the blood glucose levels rise as a result.

The role of adipocytes 

This study follows on from years of rigorous, in depth work carried out in the lab. In previous research, published in Diabetes in 2020, the scientists had identified a new therapeutic target for type 2 diabetes when investigating at an ultra-rare monogenic disease known as Alström syndrome.

The scientists had shown that adipose tissue abnormalities (3) caused by a dysfunctional protein called ALMS1 led to extremely severe insulin resistance associated with early-onset type 2 diabetes in people with Alström syndrome. In animal models, restoring the function of this protein within the adipocytes re-established blood glucose balance.

The teams then went on to focus more closely on ALMS1 and how it interacts with other proteins within the adipocytes. In particular, they have shown that in the absence of insulin, ALMS1 binds to another protein called PKC alpha. The activation of insulin in the adipocytes induces the separation of these two proteins ALMS1 and PKC alpha, resulting in glucose entry into cells. In people with diabetes, who are insulin-resistant, this link between the two proteins is maintained.

Drawing on this knowledge, the scientists have developed the peptide PATAS, which works by breaking the interaction between ALMS1 and PKC alpha – thus restoring insulin signaling in the adipocytes.

In mouse models of diabetes, PATAS has been able to re-establish the normal physiology of the adipocytes by restoring glucose uptake. “Thanks to PATAS, the adipocytes that could no longer access glucose were once again able to absorb it and then metabolize it in order to synthesize and secrete lipids which are beneficial to the entire body. These positive effects are visible in our animal models, with a marked improvement in insulin resistance. Other parameters and comorbidities are also improved, including better blood glucose control and decreased liver fibrosis and steatosis,” explains Vincent Marion.

These promising results in animals have paved the way for the researchers to organise a clinical trial as soon as possible, in order to test PATAS in humans. The successful development of a new class of antidiabetic drugs could have significant implications for public health, not only to treat type 2 diabetes but also many other cardio-metabolic disorders in which dysfunctional adipocytes and insulin resistance are very problematic.

In order to create value from these findings and facilitate the organization of such a trial, Vincent Marion has founded the start-up AdipoPharma SAS.

 

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Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

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Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

 

STATE Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin says she welcomes the Australian Government’s recent release of the Draft NSW Autism Strategy.

Ms Saffin says “it provides the State and Territory governments with the opportunity to engage with the Draft National Autism Strategy.

“We need a NSW Autism Strategy and I have had discussions with the relevant Minister in the Minns Labor Government, Kate Washington,” Ms Saffin says.

“I raised the importance of an autism strategy in the NSW Parliament last year. South Australia is way ahead of us.  Now we have the Draft National Autism Strategy, we need to seize the momentum and get a New South Wales strategy to break down barriers for autistic children and adults and their families.”

President of the Northern Rivers Autism Association Micheal Lynch has teamed up with Business NSW Northern Rivers Regional Director Jane Laverty to co-host an Autism@Work business luncheon at the Ballina RSL Auditorium from noon today (Tuesday, 9 April).

The event, titled Embracing a Neurodiverse Workforce, celebrates Autism Awareness Month and guest speaker will be former dual-code international for rugby league and rugby union Mat Rogers.

Ms Saffin says she will be an apology as she is recovering from Covid.

“A panel of speakers for today’s event is sure to discuss the Draft National Autism Strategy,” Ms Saffin says.

“It is clear from the draft that the states and territories and Federal Government need to work together because the strategy covers polices across both levels of government.

“The states have primary responsibility for the key areas of education, health, justice and housing.

“It is the states that have responsibility for pre-schools for example, where children are at critical age for early intervention which can make a huge difference.

“This is an opportunity for National Cabinet to tackle the crossover of responsibilities and ensure that this is an effective, properly funded strategy without gaps for people to slip through.

“Being in a rural or regional area can add another layer of disadvantage, so it is important that people from this region give their feedback to the national strategy.”

For more information on the Draft National Autism Strategy and to give feedback, visit here.

 

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AI-Powered MedTech Breakthrough: CSIRO and Singular Health Unveil Revolutionary Spinal Vertebrae Segmentation Technology

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An example of spinal segmentation software. CSIRO

AI-Powered MedTech Breakthrough: CSIRO and Singular Health Unveil Revolutionary Spinal Vertebrae Segmentation Technology

 

A groundbreaking AI-powered medical technology, developed through collaboration between CSIRO‘s Data61 and Australian Medical Imaging Company Singular Health, swiftly segments spinal vertebrae with an impressive 95% accuracy rate within a mere two minutes. This innovation holds the promise of revolutionising surgical planning and facilitating the design of customised implants for medical professionals.

Traditionally, the segmentation of spinal vertebrae in computerised tomography (CT) scans has demanded extensive manual labour, involving countless hours of meticulous identification and markups. However, the advent of AI automation heralds a transformative shift in this arduous process, significantly reducing time and effort while ensuring exceptional segmentation precision and localisation accuracy, as elucidated by Dr. Dadong Wang, Research Lead at Data61.

Singular Health’s Executive Director of Innovation, Dr. Guan Tay, underscores the game-changing potential of this automated segmentation technology. By integrating AI-driven automation into the segmentation process, medical professionals will now only need to make minor adjustments and validate the software’s outputs. This semi-automated approach empowers surgeons and radiologists to fine-tune the results according to their interpretations, ensuring meticulous compliance with image analysis standards while substantially streamlining processing time.

The utilisation of artificial intelligence in medical imaging, particularly in radiology, stands poised to profoundly reshape workflow dynamics for radiologists.

Leveraging a comprehensive dataset comprising over 200 CT scans of labelled data, the Data61 team meticulously explored various AI models and pre-processing techniques to achieve precise instance segmentation, labelling, surface meshing, and spatial localisation of individual vertebrae.

Dr. Wang elaborates on the AI development process, highlighting the adaptation of deep learning-based instance segmentation methodologies such as nnUNET, SC-NET, and Dense-NET. These models were rigorously trained using the VerSe’2020 dataset, comprising 100 CT scans of spines from individuals spanning diverse age groups and genders. Subsequently, the trained models underwent rigorous testing on an additional 100 CT scans, generating segmented labels of the spine, individual vertebrae, spatial coordinates, and vertebra identification.

The integration of this cutting-edge technology into Singular Health’s MedVR software represents a significant milestone, offering a transformative solution for hospitals, clinicians, educational institutions, and universities alike. This milestone achievement was made possible through the CSIRO Kick–Start initiative, which extends funding and support to innovative Australian start-ups and small businesses, granting access to CSIRO’s unparalleled research and development (R&D) expertise and capabilities.

 

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Northern Rivers Business Community gets behind Autism Awareness Month

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Autism Awareness Month

Northern Rivers Business Community gets behind Autism Awareness Month

 

Aprils is National Autism Awareness Month where recognition raises awareness about autism acceptance and promotes inclusion and connectedness for people with autism.  Social and community support can help people with autism achieve optimal health and reach their full potential.

Business NSW Northern Rivers is co-hosting the Autism@Work Business Luncheon with the Northern Rivers Autism Association on Tuesday 9 April 2024 in Ballina as part of Autism Awareness Month and the official launch of the Northern Rivers Autism Association.

“Micheal Lynch, Chair of the Association has been working tirelessly with our team on this event and we hope to demonstrate the support we can put behind such a great initiative to embrace a neurodiverse workforce in our region.”  Said Jane Laverty, Regional Director Business NSW

The luncheon will feature guest speaker, Mat Rogers a dual code international with a prominent career in both rugby league and union.  After a stella career representing Queensland, the Kangaroo’s and the Wallabies, Mat finished his career back in the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans, retiring in 2011.

With his wife, Chloe Maxwell, Mat is devoted to the charity they established, 4ASDKIDS, after discovering their son was autistic, so they could help other families with autistic children.

“We are excited to have Mat lead the conversation along with an expert panel sharing thoughts on the amazing value we can bring to our businesses and employees with a neurodiverse workforce and inclusive workplaces.”  Mrs Laverty said.

“This is going to be an inspiring event and an opportunity for Micheal Lynch to share his vision for the Association.  The Northern Rivers business community is looking forward to being part of this month of awareness raising and promoting inclusion and acceptance.

The expert panel includes:

  • Luke Terry, CEO of Whitebox Enterprises/Beacon Laundry (located in Bangalow and newly formed social enterprise)
  • Andrew Cashin, Professor of Autism and Intellectual Disability with Southern Cross University
  • Samantha Albertini, Senior Manager People & Culture with Social Futures
  • Jodi Rogers, locally based counsellor (Birds & Bees) who has just authored a book called Unique – what Autism Can Teach Us about Difference, Connection and Belonging

“Most of us know someone on the spectrum and know that autism can be a superpower.  With more than ¾ of Australians on the spectrum being young (between 5 and 24) it is important that we look at how our workplaces can adapt for neurodiverse people and enable greater inclusivity.”

 

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