Cells have a backup system that enables them to absorb glucose independently of insulin - as shown by Prof. Yoram Shechter of the Biological Chemistry Department. Shechter also found that vanadium, a metallic element present in minerals, activates this system and mimics virtually all the effects of insulin.
Based on this research, some vanadium compounds are already being tested in clinical trials in Europe and the United States to overcome insulin resistance. Such treatment would have two major advantages: First, unlike insulin, which needs to be injected into the bloodstream, vanadium can be given in pill form. Second, vanadium’s molecular mode of action is distinctly different from that of insulin, rendering it valuable for insulin-resistant cases.
Shechter is now seeking more refined methods of “turning on” the vanadium-activated backup system. He has identified two proteins activated by vanadium that induce nutrient absorption by the cell. In the future, it may be possible to bypass insulin resistance by stimulating these activities.