New insulin molecule reduces cancer risk

April 15, 2010 at 1:56 PM

CLEVELAND, April 15 (UPI) -- Case Western Reserve University scientists in Cleveland say they've developed an insulin molecule that significantly reduces insulin-related cancer risks.

Previous studies have shown obesity and excess insulin -- whether naturally produced by the body or injected in synthetic form -- are associated with an increased incidence of some common cancers, the researchers said.

But they said their invention of a "smart" insulin protein molecule that binds considerably less to cancer receptors solves that problem.

Led by Dr. Michael Weiss, a professor of cancer research, the scientists said the analog self-assembles under the skin by a means of "stapling" itself by bridging zinc ions, thereby providing a slow-release form of insulin.

"It's quite a novel mechanism," said Weiss. "Our team has applied the perspective of biomedical engineering to the biochemistry of a therapeutic protein. We regard the injected insulin solution as forming a new biomaterial that can be engineered to optimize its nano-scale properties. The notion of engineered zinc staples may find application to improve diverse injectable protein drugs to address a variety of conditions from cancer to immune deficiency."

The research that included Professor Faramarz Ismail-Beigi, Associate Professor Nelson Phillips, Associate Professor Jonathan Whittaker and X-ray crystallographer Zhu-li Wan appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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