Light-Activated Tool Helps to Better Understand Diabetes Drugs

Light Activated Tools


May 07 2016

Sandra Henderson

Researchers at the University of Birmingham (UK) have developed a light-activated tool to show how drugs need to be adapted to combat type 2 diabetes. 

The study, published in Angewandte Chemie, provides insight into the signalling process of receptors in cells. The findings could lead to a new generation of anti-diabetic drugs that are activated by either blue or ultra-violet light. 

David Hodson, PhD, from Birmingham’s Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, explains the new light-activated tool that could help optimize T2D drugs: “The GLP-1 receptor is involved in the maintenance of normal glucose levels and is presently targeted by a number of blockbuster T2D drugs,” the expert says. “However, the function of this receptor is poorly understood. In particular, drugs that bind a ‘hidden’ allosteric site may be safer and more specific alternatives to present therapies.” 

Hodson further notes that production of such drugs is at present hindered by the lack of information about how the allosteric site works. “Together with Dirk Trauner and Johannes Broichhagen at LMU Munich, we have designed a new drug, termed PhotoETP, whose conformation and binding can be controlled by light,” he reports. “This allows us to understand precisely the interactions that need to occur between a molecule and the allosteric site for full operation.” 

Researchers able to change conformation/activity of positive allosteric modulator using light  

The promising research breaks new ground in the realm of light-activated tools for optimizing drugs. “PhotoETP is termed a positive allosteric modulator,” says Hodson. “While these exist, no one has been able to change their conformation or activity using light. We have done this by incorporating an azobenzene photoresponsive element that undergoes isomerization following illumination.” 

The expert confirms that the innovation could, in fact, catalyze a new generation of drugs activated by blue or ultraviolet light. “We have already produced a range of light-activated anti-diabetics that target ion channels and G protein coupled receptors,” he says. “The aim of PhotoETP is to provide a tool that allows allosteric signalling at the GLP-1 receptor to be properly understood, with implications for the rationale design of drugs that will supersede the incretin-mimetics due to their improved safety and efficacy.” 

Photopharmacology evolves 
The findings could represent a photopharmacological stepping stone on the path to light-activated drugs of the future. “Light-activated antibiotics, chemotherapeutics and anti-diabetics have all been produced,” Hodson notes. “These studies are further evidence that, one day, photopharmacology — the targeting of drug activity in space and time — may become inherent to drug design and disease treatment.” 

In that endeavour, Hodson and his team are well underway toward realizing light-activated anti-diabetics. “We have begun to synthesize variants of PhotoETP that will provide further clues as to how the GLP-1 receptor works,” he reveals. “Moreover, we are performing proof-of-concept experiments to show that light-activated anti-diabetics can be safely used in vivo to control blood glucose levels.” 

Sandra Henderson is Research Editor, Novus Light Technologies Today.


Related Articles

Changing Scene

  • Magic Lite & EFC Release Student Scholarship

    January 18, 2023 Magic Lite was thrilled to have participated in the 2022 EFC Scholarship Program and recently present the Magic Lite Future Leaders Award of $2,500 to Anthony Faustin of Sherbrook University in Montreal. As successful applicant, Anthony demonstrated leadership amongst his peers as well as in his community, and showed true entrepreneurial spirit… Read More…

  • Ascot Capital Group Announces a Change in the Presidency and the Appointment of Rob Nadler as President

    January 18, 2023 Rob Nadler, Stanpro’s Executive Vice-President will be promoted and assume the role of President of Ascot’s “General & Emergency Lighting Group – Stanpro, AimLite & Beluce” effective June 1, 2023. Rob joined Stanpro in 2001 and was instrumental in its tremendous growth over the past 20 years, including the organic acceleration of the business, the… Read More…


  • LIT Design Awards Light Art Project Winner: Integral Group

    LIT Design Awards Light Art Project Winner: Integral Group

    December 19, 2022 Prize(s) Winners in Light Art Project Company Integral Group Lead Designers Ellie Niakan + Catherine Chan Photo Credits Catherine Chan Completion Date December 21, 2021 Project Location New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada Although appearing as solitary, trees are connected to one another through vast underground systems known as mycorrhizal networks. Through these hidden systems—a symbiotic relationship between plants… Read More…

  • LIT Lighting Design Awards: Capital Park Landscape, Victoria, BC

    LIT Lighting Design Awards: Capital Park Landscape, Victoria, BC

    December 5, 2022 Located in one of Victoria’s most historic neighborhoods, the Capital Park Mixed-Use Development is made up of seven buildings stretching across three lots and is responsible for nearly an entire city block of Victoria’s downtown core. The project took place over the span of three phases and eight years. The first phase… Read More…

New Products

  • Feel Stem Suspension

    January 18, 2023 Designed by Milan-based Sara Moroni, the Feel Suspension Light from Penta combines texture, light, and quiet. It features sound-absorbing textile discs and luminous stems. The coloured discs, in matching or contrasting colours, give life to ever-changing configurations. Suspended from the ceiling, the Feel absorbs noise, letting you enjoy the silence. Feel comes… Read More…

  • CorePro LED Mini Cylinder

    January 18, 2023 Upgrade to LED – Looking to make an impact for retail display areas? The #CorePro LED Mini Cylinder by #Lightolier delivers both lumen and CBCP performance equivalent to that of most 50W MR16 halogen luminaires. These top quality track lights consume 82% less energy and provide easy maintenance.The completely integrated driver, thermal management, unitized optics and… Read More…