Exenatide, a type 2 diabetes treatment has been found to also have 'off-label' benefits for glucose control in the liver and in fatty cells known as adipose.
The drug, exenatide targets the pancreas to improve glucose absorption, enhances glucose uptake and reduces insulin resistance in the liver and in adipose tissue.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. In some cases this accumulation of fat can cause inflammation of the liver and eventually lead to permanent scarring (cirrhosis), which can seriously impair the liver's ability to function.
"There has been much discussion around the benefit of using injectable diabetes treatments, such as exenatide, on other tissues than the pancreas to improve glucose control," said Dr Amailia Gastaldelli, Institute of Clinical Physiology, CNR, Pisa, Italy, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, USA, and lead author of the study. "This is why we set out to evaluate the effects of exenatide on the liver and adipose tissue; to better understand the benefits this treatment could offer to a wider group of patients."
Male participants (n=15) with a fatty liver index score of >30 (a classification system that ranges from 0 to 100)4 were tested on two occasions. Those with a score <30 are deemed to have a negative likelihood of having fatty liver. Exenatide or placebo was injected 30 minutes before an oral glucose test in the double blinded study. The test measured glucose uptake in liver tissue and abdominal adipose tissue glucose uptake.
The results showed that acute exenatide administration (5mcg) decreased glucose production and insulin resistance in the liver tissue when blood sugars were low. The treatment also improved liver tissue uptake of glucose when it is eaten. Furthermore, exenatide decreased insulin resistance in fatty adipose tissue.
"This interesting study shows promising findings for the many people around the world who suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease," says Professor Tom Hemming Karlsen, EASL Vice-Secretary. "The authors have succeeded in identifying an existing treatment that can improve liver metabolism, which is an important step forward for the hepatology community."