New Hope for Type 1 Diabetics
Verapamil is a calcium channel-blocking drug first approved by the FDA in 1982 as a medication for high blood pressure. It keeps calcium from moving into muscles and arterial cells, causing them to relax.
But it may be able to do much more.
Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center have discovered that diabetic mice dosed with the drug can experience a complete reversal of the disease. Verapamil doesn’t just block calcium transport. It also reduces levels of thioredoxin-interacting protein, or TXNIP.
When blood sugar is too high, beta cells in the pancreas accumulate TXNIP, which kills them and halts insulin production. Researchers are therefore eager to see if verapamil works on humans. The drug is a known compound with clear safety data, so toxicity is not much of a concern.
This year, university scientists will launch a Phase 1 trial in 52 individuals who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within three months. The patients must be recently diagnosed so the drug is used before their beta cells die. Even preserving a fraction of the normal number of beta cells could have important health benefits for Type 1 diabetics, because the cells can constantly respond to changes in blood sugar. That’s not possible with insulin injections and even insulin pumps, which are clunky reactions to information from blood-test devices.
Furthermore, the researchers have discovered that diabetics can retain a number of active beta cells decades after being diagnosed, though there are not enough of them to control blood sugar.
There is some hope that verapamil could create an environment that allows beta cells to thrive and regenerate.
To a bright future,
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