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Possible New Treatment for Prediabetic Patients

A natural product called DLPC (dilauroyl phosphatidylcholine) increases sensitivity to insulin and reduces fatty liver.

Baylor College of Medicine researchers believe the natural product may provide a treatment for prediabetic patients. DLPC is an unusual phospholipid and a trace component of the dietary supplement lecithin.

Dr. David D. Moore, professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM, and his colleagues at first thought that DLPC would provide a useful tool in studying the function of a receptor protein – liver receptor homolog -1 or LRH-1 – that regulates the production of bile acids in the liver.

Studies in mice soon showed that DLPC could stimulate LRH-1 activity. In addition to a small increase in bile acid levels, DLPC improved regulation of glucose and fat within the liver.

“We know it works well in mice,” said Dr. Moore. The link of LRH-1 to bile acids may contribute to its effect on glucose levels and fat because small, non-toxic increases in bile acid levels can improve metabolic disorders.

Dr. Jae Man Lee, then a graduate student in Moore’s laboratory, first proposed screening compounds to see which activated LRH-1. He found that DLPC, a structurally unusual phosphatidylcholine (a form of phospholipid that is important in the formation of cell membranes) enhanced LRH-1 activity in cells.

In mice, DLPC induced the production of bile acid enzymes and lowered fat in the liver. It also increased levels of bile acids and regulated glucose or sugar circulating in the blood. In two kinds of mice that had resistance to insulin, DLPC also decreased fatty liver and lowered glucose levels in the blood. However, DLPC had no effect in mice that had no LRH-1 in the liver.

The effect on the insulin resistant mice was striking. “Their overall body weight was not changed,” said Dr. Moore. “But they had improved sensitivity to insulin (which helps keep glucose levels in check) and less fatty livers. We are interested in why it gets rid of the fat in the liver.”

“DLPC is a natural product,” said Dr. Moore. “Lecithin is a mixture of many compounds but DLPC is one of them.”

Nature, May 2011.