The scientists, led by Associate Professor Abhay Satoskar, said the drug consists of a synthetic molecule that stops the biological activity of a protein called macrophage migration inhibitory factor, or MIF.
The researchers said they first determined that mice genetically engineered not to carry the MIF protein are less likely to develop symptoms of type 2 diabetes. That, they said, suggests MIF has a role in at least two hallmarks of diabetes: impaired blood sugar control and the presence of other inflammatory proteins.
The scientists then treated diabetic mice with the investigational drug and found most animals showed lower blood sugar levels and reduced inflammatory proteins in their blood when compared to untreated mice with type 2 diabetes.
"We also found that if we stopped administering the drug, then the blood sugar level would go up," Satoskar said. "This does not present a cure for diabetes, but we think, if it is approved in humans, that it has potential to become an oral drug taken for the long term to control a very common symptom of the disease."
The study is to appear in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.