Liraglutide alters gut microbiome in type 2 diabetes

An article published in Experimental Biology and Medicine (Volume 243, Issue 1, January, 2018) describes a new benefit for patients with type-2-diabetes (T2D) that take liraglutide. The study, led by Dr. Xinhua Xiao, from the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, China, demonstrates that liraglutide beneficially changes the gut microbiome in an animal model of T2D.


T2D is a chronic metabolic condition characterized by high levels of glucose, a sugar, in the blood. Glucose is an important energy source for all cells. When glucose remains in the blood and does not enter cells, cells are not able to function properly. Recent studies have demonstrated that patients with T2D also have alterations in the natural bacteria that reside in gastrointestinal tract and facilitate digestion and impact overall health. If left untreated, the complications from T2D can be life-threatening and include heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye damage, foot damage, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet and exercise can prevent complications in some patients. Other patients may need medications to prevent complications. Liraglutide was approved by US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of T2D in 2010 and reduces blood glucose levels. However, the effects of liraglutide on the gut microbiome have not been elucidated.

In the current study, Dr. Xiao and colleagues examined the gut microbiota in normal rats, diabetic rats and liraglutide-treated diabetic male rats. Diabetic rats exhibited a marked reduction in the number and diversity of gut microbes. Lariglutide administration prevented the development of diabetes, and selectively enhanced some short-chain fatty acid-producing and probiotic bacteria. Dr. Qian Zhang, Assistant Professor of Peking Union Medical College Hospital and a co-author of the study, stated that “the correlation of gut microbiota moderation and liraglutide treatment in diabetic rats may contribute to a new beneficial effect of liraglutide against diabetes.” Dr. Xiao said that “Beneficial bacteria therapy could be a safe and efficient treatment for diabetic patients.”

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology & Medicine, said: “Xiao and colleagues have demonstrated an additional positive effect of the FDA approved Type 2 diabetes drug treatment: Liraglutide in a rat model. They demonstrate in a Type 2 diabetes rat model that this glucagon-like peptide not only stimulates the glucose-induced insulin response but also changes the gut microbiome leading to decreased inflammation and increased short chain fatty acid producers and probiotic bacteria in the gut. Further studies elucidating the underlying mechanisms are now warranted.”

Experimental Biology and Medicine is a journal dedicated to the publication of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences. The journal was first established in 1903. Experimental Biology and Medicine is the journal of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine.

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