A strong but risky weight loss drug shows potential as a possible treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from Yale have been testing the effects of low doses of mitochondrial protonophore 2,4-dinitrophenol, commonly abbreviated to DNP, on rodents as a method of reducing fat in the liver and improving insulin sensitivity.

Powerful weight loss

DNP has been known to be a powerful weight loss drug for over a hundred years, however, it has been banned from any use in humans since 1938 as the drug has the potential to kill by overheating the body.

The way DNP works is by stimulating mitochondria (cells responsible for producing energy) to produce more heat. Therefore, the drug helps to literally burn calories. The downside is that, if taken in too high doses, it can cause the mitochondria to essentially cook the body.

Reversing insulin resistance

The Yale researchers have previously shown that, when taken in low doses, the drug no longer becomes toxic. Dr. Gerald Shulman and his team tested DNP on rats, in doses 100 times lower than toxic levels, and the results were very significant showing reduced blood glucose and triglyceride levels and also lower levels of circulating insulin, demonstrating improved insulin sensitivity.

The next test involved using a formulation called CRMP, an oral and controlled release form of DNP. The results of CRMP showed that it resulted in similar positive effects as DNP and helped to reverse both fatty liver disease and the insulin resistance of type 2 diabetes.

Testing side effects of CRMP

The small doses used meant that no adverse effects were observed in the rodent study. However, it is important that more rigorous safety tests are carried out before human trials can be initiated.

The study was published online on 26 February by Science Magazine.