Common Blood Pressure Drug could Cure Diabetes 1
Our two technologies this week are about medical drugs that are being repurposed to treat diseases other than what they are being used for currently.
The first drug, Vapamil, is a common blood pressure drug that Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, found completely reversed type 1 diabetes in mice, and they expect to test the drug on humans next year.
Type 1 diabetes is the less-common form of the disease, comprising only five percent of those diagnosed with diabetes, and mostly appearing in kids and young adults. Nevertheless, it’s just as serious. Patients’ bodies are unable to produce insulin, cells can’t get energy, and the blood is overcome with sugar. As its sugar levels increase, the researchers found, so do levels of a protein called TXNIP. It turns out that this protein also kills the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas known as beta cells — the higher their levels, the more beta cells are killed. Thus, diabetes progresses.
“We… know that treatment definitely creates an environment where beta cells are allowed to survive, and their survival is a major factor in potentially improving insulin production, so our hope is that we’ll see a similar effect in type 1 diabetes patients to what we have seen in our mice models,” the study’s lead researcher Dr. Anath Shalev said in a live newscast, according to Medscape.
Shalev’s team first discovered TXNIP years ago. At the time, they found that it was present when glucose levels were high, a condition also known as hyperglycemia. Looking at this correlation, they set out to determine if that was in fact the case, and if there was a drug that could treat it. So, they tested whether mice with TXNIP deleted from their genomes could develop diabetes (they didn’t), and subsequently discovered that verapamil, a calcium-channel blocker, deprived TXNIP of the calcium it needed to become functional.
“Currently, we can prescribe external insulin and other medications to lower blood sugar; but we have no way to stop the destruction of beta cells, and the disease continues to get worse,” said Dr. Fernando Ovalle, director of the university’s Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic, in a press release. “If verapamil works in humans, it would be a truly revolutionary development in a disease affecting more people each year to the tune of billions of dollars annually.”