A compound isolated from a fungus controlled blood glucose levels in mice bred to develop diabetes. Researchers are saying that if the fungus, collected from a plant in the Republic of Congo, demonstrates the same effects in humans with diabetes, then millions of people would be freed from taking insulin.
According to newswire reports, the compound, known as L-783,281, interacts with certain cell receptors and helps them store and use blood sugar. Insulin that is administered via syringe has the same effect.
Dr. Bei Zhang, a senior research fellow at Merck Research Laboratory in Rahway, New Jersey, says that researchers analyzed more than 50,000 compounds to determine if any would mimic the activities of insulin. Insulin cannot be taken orally because it breaks down during digestion, but L-783,281 could be taken orally.
Zhang and colleagues at Merck will now test whether the compound has any side effects.