New Biochemistry Faculty to Collaborate on Study of Type 2 Diabetes Therapies

Snehal ChaudhariSnehal Chaudhari, who will be joining the Department of Biochemistry as an assistant professor this fall, is collaborating with David Harris, assistant professor in the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery, and Rachana Bimanwar, a pharmaceutical chemist at the Padmashree Dr. D.Y. Patil University in Mumbai, India to explore potential treatments for Type 2 diabetes. The research, on which Harris is the principal investigator, received a one-year pilot grant from Washington University’s Diabetes Research Center.

Type 2 diabetes is a complicated disease that affects over 33 million people in the United States and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes. It develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps us store and use sugar (or glucose) for energy. Insulin resistance increases the level of glucose in the bloodstream, which can damage the body. This research will investigate ways to maintain internal glucose regulation.

“I am really looking forward to embarking on this collaborative effort to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of diabetes,” Harris says. “This project is a testament to one of the major joys of working at UW Madison: the ease of cross campus collaborations.”

The researchers are interested in a receptor in the human gut called TGR5. The chemicals in our body that attach to the TGR5 receptor can help improve our body’s ability to remain sensitive to insulin, ultimately helping regulate glucose levels. However, the TGR5 receptor hasn’t been studied much in diabetes research because it also affects other parts of the body. The research team aims to change this by studying how the chemicals that attach to the TGR5 receptor can be altered to improve insulin sensitivity, and whether these alterations cause side effects to other systems of the body. They will initially work on cells in the lab and then run tests in mice.

“Developing and characterizing novel therapeutics for complicated metabolic diseases requires a multidisciplinary approach,” says Chaudhari, who has developed in vitro assays to study the efficacy, safety, and intestine-specific activity of TGR5 agonists. “This grant is a result of a unique collaboration, combining synthetic chemistry, cell biology, and in vivo surgical expertise with the goal of identifying new drug candidates for treating diabetes.”

A version of this story originally appeared on the the Department of Surgery website.