Rule of 3: Hormone triplet offers hope for obesity and diabetes

December 08, 2014

Recently, the researchers had constructed several single molecules with dual hormone action. Now, for the first time, the researchers succeeded in designing a substance that combines three metabolically active hormone components (GLP-1, GIP and glucagon) and offers unmatched potency to fight metabolic diseases in pre-clinical trials.

The team headed by physician scientist Matthias Tschöp (Helmholtz Diabetes Center at HMGU and Metabolic Diseases Chair at TUM) and peptide chemist Richard DiMarchi (Indiana University) has been cooperating for almost a decade to invent improved therapeutics for type 2 diabetes and obesity. One of their novel approaches is to design molecules that combine the effects of specific metabolic hormones. In recent years, the scientists succeeded in developing hormone-like molecular structures that incorporate efficacy of two such messengers* and, consequently, can trigger more significant metabolic improvements than was previously possible with known medicinal approaches.

Triple hormone reduces body weight even more effectively and improves insulin sensitivity

The interdisciplinary team led by Tschöp and DiMarchi is now presenting a triple hormone that dramatically reduces blood glucose, appetite, and body fat in animal models while also improving fat content in the liver, cholesterol levels and calorie burning even more effectively than with previously available single action or dual action molecules. The tri-agonist can reduce body weight by around 30 percent, roughly twice as much as a dual co-agonist at the same dose, while massively improving insulin sensitivity, essentially curing the rodents of obesity and diabetes.

Effect on receptors of GLP-1, GIP and glucagon

The triple hormone specifically and equally targets three receptors of GLP-1**, GIP*** and glucagon. GLP-1 and GIP predominantly contribute to improved insulin release and a reduction of blood glucose levels. GLP-1 additionally curbs appetite. The third hormone, glucagon, primarily increases the long-term rate at which calories are burned and improves liver function. "This triple hormone effect in a single molecule shows results never achieved before. A number of metabolic control centers are influenced simultaneously, namely in the pancreas, liver, fat depots and brain," explains first author Brian Finan, who works as a chemist and pharmacologist at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center.

"This latest breakthrough shows us that we are on the right path to designing better treatments in the fight against obesity and diabetes," reports Tschöp. "Now the most important steps are clinical studies. In parallel, we are working on personalized medicines for individual patient needs, combining four, five, or more hormone components."

The objective of research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), is to establish new approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major widespread diseases and to further develop these as quickly as possible in the sense of translational research in order to produce concrete benefits for society.
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Find out more:

New multiple action intestinal hormone corrects diabetes, press release 30.10.2013

Doubling down against Diabetes: Turbo-charged Gut Hormones, press release 12.11.2012

* Previous hormone duos combined the effects of the insulin-stimulating intestinal hormones GLP-1 and GIP or GLP-1 and the pancreatic hormone glucagon or GLP-1 and the steroid hormone oestrogen.
** GLP1: Glucagon like Peptide 1
*** GIP: Gastric Inhibitory Peptide or Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide

Further Information

Original publication:


Finan, B. et al. (2014). A rationally designed monomeric peptide triagonist corrects obesity and diabetes in rodents, Nature Medicine, doi: 10.1038/nm.3761

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,100 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members.

The German Center for Diabetes Research e.V. brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and combines basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. The members of the association are the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DifE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Helmholtz Zentrum München - the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden and the Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Research Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. The aim of the DZD is to find answers to unsolved questions in diabetes research by adopting a novel, integrative approach and to make a significant contribution towards improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus.

The Institute of Diabetes and Obesity (IDO) studies the diseases of the metabolic syndrome by means of systems biological and translational approaches on the basis of cellular systems, genetically modified mouse models and clinical intervention studies. It seeks to discover new signaling pathways in order to develop innovative therapeutic approaches for the personalized prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and their concomitant diseases. IDO is part of the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC).

Contact for the media

Communication Department, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg - Phone: 089-3187-2238 - Fax: 089-3187-3324 - Email: presse@helmholtz-muenchen.de

Scientific contact

Prof. Matthias Tschöp, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg - Phone: +49 89-3187-2103 - Email: matthias.tschoep@helmholtz-muenchen.de
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Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health

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