Hormones against Metabolic Syndrome

By conjugating the gut hormone GLP-1 with estrogen, scientists succeeded in the animal model to direct this peptide-steroid ­conjugate to specific tissues. There it caused a reduction of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome without triggering the negative side effects of estrogen.

Scientists of the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity together with U.S. cooperation partners have succeeded in using tissue-specific drugs to target metabolic syndrome, a pre-existing condition of type 2 diabetes. They selectively directed estrogen to specific cell types by binding it to the gut hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like-peptide 1), thereby causing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome to diminish. If the hormone estrogen is chemically conjugated to the gut hormone GLP-1, the estrogen merely passes into the GLP-1 target cells, but not into estrogen-sensitive organs such as the uterus.

With this novel conjugate between a peptide and steroid hormone the scientists showed in the animal model that estrogen can maximize the effect of GLP-1 in reducing levels of blood glucose and in loss of body fat, but for the first time without the negative side effects of estrogen on the uterus and without elevated tumor risk. The trick is that the gut hormone only delivers the conjugated estrogen to certain cell types. On the basis of GLP-1, drugs have been developed that are already approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In the animal model, both in the treatment of obesity as well as type 2 diabetes, the novel conjugate shows a significantly better effect than GLP-1 alone.

Metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes are increasing in Germany and worldwide in epidemic proportions, thus presenting major challenges to the health system. Therefore new and effective therapy concepts with minimal side effects are urgently needed, especially for these forms of the disease. The conjugate approach may represent a completely new treatment concept which may similarly be applied to a number of other diseases that may likewise be influenced by steroid hormones.



The metabolic syndrome describes the simultaneous occurrence of multiple disease symptoms such as obesity, elevated fasting glucose and blood lipid levels, and high blood pressure. This combination increases the risk of atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart disease.