Sugary snacks
An enzyme has been discovered which can remove excess sugar from cellsRobert Fairchild/Flickr

An enzyme has been discovered that can remove the toxic effects of sugar from the body, say researchers. The enzyme, glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase – or G3PP – detoxifies excess sugar from the cells; a potential breakthrough for obesity type-2 diabetes therapy.

We all dream of being able to enjoy as many sugary snacks as we want, without the added weight gain tied to it. Scientists from the University of Montreal are now saying that this enzyme could be used to that effect.

"By diverting glucose as glycerol, G3PP prevents excessive formation and storage of fat," said Murthy Madiraju, researcher on the study. "It also lowers excessive production of glucose in liver, a major problem in diabetes."

The researchers found that G3PP is used in the body to breakdown damaging glucose-derived glycerol-3 phosphate to its constituent parts; glycerol phosphate, and glycerol. The enzyme then transports the excess glycerol out of the body, protecting important organs in the body.

The Scientists write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that this could unlock the door to treating sugar-related illnesses, including diabetes. When glucose and fatty acids are in excess in the body, their toxic properties damage the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling the amount of glucose and fat our bodies use for energy.

The G3PP enzyme though, could reduce the harmful effects of excess glucose in the body by removing it. This means sufferers of diabetes and obesity need not worry as much about the amount of glucose they ingest. It could even mean the amount of people diagnosed with these diseases are reduced.

Marc Prentki, lead author of the study, said: "It is extremely rare since the 1960's that a novel enzyme is discovered at the heart of metabolism of nutrients in all mammalian tissues, and likely this enzyme will be incorporated in biochemistry textbooks."

The next stage of research is to investigate how this enzyme could be incorporated into a new therapy for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The treatment will first have to be confirmed in several animal models before drugs for human use can be developed, the researchers stated.

NHS Choices estimates that just under four million people in the UK suffer from diabetes, with roughly 90% of them type 2 patients. Putting that into perspective, that is more than the populations of Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, Sheffield and Manchester combined.