Pharmaceutical researchers are one step closer to making a pill that can reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. They published their research in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

Diabetes and its complications are a major issue within the United States and abroad. In 2012, the American Diabetes Association reported that 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, lived with diabetes.

Various factors, including age and obesity, can cause a person’s body to stop responding to the blood-sugar regulating hormone called insulin. Current drugs for type 2 diabetes work by eliminating glucose from a person’s bloodstream. These prescriptions can help a great deal, but they’re not a cure, and the side effects can be nasty.

The authors of the new study wondered if they could address the problem farther up in the pipeline by convincing the body to respond to insulin again. They created a compound that blocks the release of a chemical called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP), an enzyme that’s previously been implicated in insulin resistance.

They gave the drugs to a group of obese, diabetic mice by mouth, once a day for four weeks, all the time monitoring the rodents’ blood sugar and insulin resistance. In that short time, the animals’ bodies began responding to insulin and their blood sugar began to stabilize. The mice experienced no side effects.

The next step will be testing the drug in other animals, and then in people. Lead researcher Stephanie Stanford of the University of California, San Diego, is hopeful the pill’s success will translate into the human body and reduce the need for insulin injections and other drugs.

“This could lead to a new therapeutic strategy for treating type 2 diabetes,” she told New Scientist.