Major research results – University of Copenhagen

Major research results

Using the GLP-1 hormone to treat obesity and diabetes

The GLP-1 hormone is the key to understanding the production of insulin, how our appetite works and how we digest the food we eat. Research shows that GLP-1 is rapidly broken down in the body so it is no longer active. This leads to lower production of insulin and higher blood sugar. The enzyme responsible, called DPP-4D, has been identified, and scientists have used this knowledge to produce medicines that inhibit the enzyme. It is now one of the most commonly used diabetes medicines. Trials have shown that overweight people can lose substantial amounts of weight and keep it off by injecting imitations of GLP-1, which are resistant to DPP-4D, once a week.

Identification of molecular targets for cancer treatment

Almost one in three people in the Western world contract cancer during their lifetime. Many patients respond badly to current treatments and suffer from a range of side effects. In order to provide effective and gentle treatment, it is crucial to understand why and how cancer occurs. Based on real clinical examples, the challenge is to build up a basic understanding of disease. This is the starting point for identifying molecular targets that may form the basis for the development of new medicines with which to treat cancer.

Naturstoffet thapsigarginUsing the natural substance thaspsigargin to treat prostate cancer

Researchers have used a natural substance to create a cell poison, which – like a Trojan horse – is transmitted into the body and not released until it strikes the cancerous cells. Prostate cancer, second only to lung cancer at killing males, is one of the forms of cancers that will benefit from this method of treatment. Researchers have found two enzymes: one which is released from prostate cancer cells and is only active in the immediate vicinity of them, and one of which there is an extra large amount in newly formed blood vessels in tumours. By coupling the natural substance thapsigargin with peptides, which are split by the enzymes mentioned but not by other enzymes found in the body, it is possible to target treatment with great accuracy.

Grafik af blod-hjerne-barrieren, der spiller en væsentlig rolle ved udvikling af drug delivery teknologierDevelopment of drug delivery systems

Molecules that appear to have treatment potential can be difficult to turn into medicine that has the right effect on the patient. Such molecules can be made more effective by pharmaceutical processing. The goal is to deliver the medicine that works against a disease to the exact place where the disease is found, without harming the rest of the body. It is, therefore, important to understand how co-formulants and drug-delivery systems affect absorption via biological membranes, e.g. in the intestines or brain.

Proteinet TIMP-1High levels of the biomarker TIMP-1 make chemotherapy less effective

The study of the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of resistance to conventional chemotherapy has led to the discovery of the biomarker 'Tissue Inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1' (TIMP-1), which is a protein. Researchers have found out that patients with high TIMP-1 levels suffer significantly fewer side effects from chemotherapy. Right now researchers are therefore working to develop a drug that lowers TIMP-1 levels and makes chemotherapy more effective. Biomarkers include DNA, RNA, proteins, peptides, or metabolites, and knowledge of biomarkers can be used by oncologists to treat only those who will benefit from treatment This also saves society the cost of ineffective treatments.

ParagrafferStudy of the complexity of pharmaceutical legislation

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest – but also one of the most regulated – industries in the world. In Europe, the industry is subject to general EU legislation, the free movement of goods and – perhaps most importantly – to patent law at both national and international level. The pharmaceutical industry is also subject to a series of more specific bodies of law and guidelines, which (for example) regulate clinical trials and the approval of new medicines. Legislation about medicine is extremely complex and research into the legal aspects of pharmaceuticals requires an interdisciplinary approach. Alongside law, a broad understanding of business dynamics is needed, as well as knowledge of the process of developing new medicines and the sciences upon which this process is based.