Building a Better Insulin

The manner in which insulin works is among the enduring mysteries of biology.

Michael Weiss, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and the Cowan Blum Professor of Biochemistry & Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and his team have come closer than ever to uncovering the molecule's secrets.

Three papers, each designated as "Paper of the Week" in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, highlight the team's groundbreaking discovery of an ultra-stable, heat-resistant insulin analog and their investigation of how insulin signals cells to transport glucose.

Dr. Weiss says these discoveries may enable the design of a new insulin analog that is resistant to degradation and, unlike current formulations, could be stable for months—even at high temperatures.

"An ultra-stable insulin would be an invaluable therapy for people with diabetes who live in resource-poor settings and do not have regular access to refrigeration. It could also save lives during power outages and natural disasters," he says.

Dr. Weiss says the new insulin formulation could also be used in an insulin pump that can be implanted within the body.