We study mechanisms controlling of cell function, particularly in relation to diseases involving metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. Our main aim is to investigate whether drug targeting AMPK could be a strategy to treat diabetes. We also run the core mass spectrometry facility for protein analysis on the UCLouvain Brussels campus.
Metformin is the most prescribed medication used worldwide for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Metformin action can partly be explained by activation of an enzyme, called AMPK. AMPK activation in tissues and cells switches on ATP producing pathways, such as glycolysis and fatty acid oxidation, while at the same time switching off ATP consuming processes, such as protein synthesis. In this way, AMPK counteracts ATP-depletion, such as occurs during anoxia or exercise in muscle.
We have made important contributions to the AMPK field by finding new targets in the control of glucose uptake, glycogen synthesis, glycolysis and protein synthesis. The search for AMPK targets is a main area of research, which we are pursuing using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry techniques. We use new direct AMPK activators including natural plant-derived compounds, particularly in muscle, liver and adipose tissue, to test their therapeutic potential for treating diabetes.