Anti-migraine Medication May Treat Obesity, Diabetes

June 17, 2014
Jacquelyn Gray

By blocking a key pain receptor in mice models, a team of researchers has discovered a potential new method for treating obesity and diabetes.

By blocking a key pain receptor in mice models, a team of researchers has discovered a potential new method for treating obesity and diabetes.

In a study published in the May 22, 2014, issue of Cell, Andrew Dillin, PhD, and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found genetically modified mice that lacked a certain pain receptor called TRPV1 lived 14% longer than mice that had it.

“In long-lived TRPV1 knockout mice, the nuclear exclusion of the transcriptional coactivator CRTC1 within pain sensory neurons originating from the spinal cord … decreases production of the neuropeptide CGRP from sensory endings innervating the pancreatic islets, subsequently promoting insulin secretion and metabolic health,” the authors wrote. “In contrast, CGRP homeostasis is disrupted with age in wild-type mice, resulting in metabolic decline.”

Furthermore, the researchers found TRPV1-deficient mice had lower levels of the CGRP proteins that are responsible for blocking insulin release and increasing blood glucose levels, which ultimately affect the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity. As a result, treated mice were able to quickly remove sugar from their systems, regardless of exercise frequency or aging.

“We think that blocking this pain receptor and pathway could be very, very useful — not only for relieving pain, but (also) for improving lifespan and metabolic health, and, in particular, for treating diabetes and obesity in humans,” Dillin said in a press release.

The investigators noted an anti-migraine medication produces similar results, since it inhibits a CGRP protein that triggers TRPV1. In fact, older mice treated with the drug in the study had increased longevity compared to untreated older mice, and they were also metabolically similar to younger mice.

Moving forward, Dillin said he plans to further examine the influence of TRPV1 and CGRP in both mice and humans.

“Our findings suggest that pharmacological manipulation of TRPV1 and CGRP may improve metabolic health and longevity,” Dillin noted. “Alternatively, chronic ingestion of compounds that affect TRPV1 might help prevent metabolic decline with age and lead to increased longevity in humans.”