Curing Type 2 Diabetes

Victor Shengkan Jin, an associate professor of pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.


A modified form of the drug niclosamide may hold the key to battling type 2 diabetes, according to Victor Shengkan Jin, associate professor of pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Nick Romanenko

Type 2 diabetes, which affects 28 million Americans, can only be  treated medically for symptoms. New research at Rutgers, however, shows promising evidence that a modified form of the drug niclosamide, commonly used to eliminate intestinal parasites, may hold the key to battling the disease at its source. Victor Shengkan Jin, an associate professor of pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says it is important to find medication to correct the cause of the disease because the only known “cure” involves major gastric bypass surgery, which can only be performed on highly obese people and is risky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that 40 percent of Americans will develop type 2 diabetes, the form of diabetes once known as adult onset, whereby the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin because it has been degraded. According to Jin, a major cause of insulin resistance is the accumulation of excess fat in the cells of the liver and in muscle tissue.

The modified medication—known as niclosamide ethanolamine salt—burned the excess fat in liver cells through a process known as mitochondrial uncoupling. Getting rid of the interference of fat in the liver and muscle tissue is the key to restoring the cells’ ability to respond to insulin properly and ultimately reverse the diabetes entirely. That outcome is not certain, but Jin says the positive changes he saw in mice are  encouraging. — Rob Forman

Bearing Bad News

Two people receive the same bad news—a failing grade on an exam. One person vows to do better; the other is inclined to give up. How can similar setbacks produce such different reactions? It may come down to how much control we feel we have over an incident. That’s the finding of research conducted at Rutgers University–Newark. The study, published in the journal Neuron, also finds that when setbacks occur, the amount of control we perceive may even determine which of two parts of the brain will handle the situation.

“One student might feel he wouldn’t have failed if he had studied harder, studied differently—something under his control,” says Jamil Bhanji, a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers and one of the study’s coauthors. The student resolves to try new study habits and work toward acing the next exam. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) used in the study showed activity in a part of the brain called the ventral striatum, which has been shown to guide goals based on experiences.

The other student who failed the test believes it happened because the questions were unfair or the professor was mean—things that he could not control. Overcoming those emotions and refocusing on doing well in the class may require a more complicated thought process. The fMRI revealed that activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that regulates emotions in more flexible ways, is necessary to promote persistence.

Mauricio Delgado, an associate professor of psychology and the study’s coauthor, says these findings could assist people whose jobs include delivering bad news: suggesting a solution to the setback might influence how the news is received. “This puts the student in a situation where they may experience control and be more likely to improve the next time,” Delgado says. — Rob Forman

New Vaccine to Fight Asthma

Color illustration of human lungs


A new method for developing vaccines could lead the way in fighting infectious diseases by using a white blood cell called a macrophage.

A new method for developing vaccines could lead the way in fighting infectious diseases, in particular asthma, according to a new Rutgers study. The method involves training white blood cells that have not been the primary focus of vaccine development. William Gause, senior associate dean for research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, has conducted research demonstrating that a white blood cell called a macrophage is able to develop a memory response to an invading pathogen, reacting strongly to the infection as if the body had seen and subdued it before. Although macrophages are well known for fighting disease-causing agents, Gause’s study, published in Nature Immunology, provides evidence that these macrophages can be trained during initial infections so that they can promote a rapid and more effective response when the body is exposed to the pathogen a second time. — Rob Forman

No Pain, a Gain

It’s widely known that exercise  helps you tolerate pain, and your postworkout pain sensitivity could  provide clues to your chances of developing chronic pain, according to researchers at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. In a study published in the Journal of Pain, researchers found that rats that displayed the least sensitivity to pain after running on a treadmill were also less likely to develop pain after a nerve injury.  The results suggest that exercise could be a valuable component in helping doctors predict susceptibility to pain, particularly following injury or surgery, says Junad Khan, an assistant professor of diagnostic sciences, who led the study. “We hope that the finding could support the development of individual pain-management plans,” he says.

The phenomenon of pain reduction after exercise is known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH). Khan GSBS’13 and his team believe that an individual’s capacity for EIH, or their EIH profile, can indicate how efficiently his or her body manages the sensation and suppression of pain. Khan, who specializes in orofacial pain, is hoping that his team’s work will provide greater insight into how pain is transmitted and perceived—and the best ways to relieve it. — Carrie Stetler