Verapamil, a blood pressure drug, has just come out of a clinical trial which proved its effectiveness in reversing diabetes.
Alabama at Birmingham University released statements claiming that the trial had been a success and that it will soon move to its human testing phase by 2015. Scientists explain that although the drug is normally used for the treatment of high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats, it was also proven to reduce the levels of TXNIP in pancreatic beta cells. Consequently, researchers noted that the pancreas’ insulin production restarted and diabetes reversed.
TXNIP is a protein which is involved in the death of insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells) and the higher its levels, the more beta cells are killed.
“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,”
Dr. Anath Shalev, study lead researcher said during a live newscast.
TXNIP was discovered only a few years ago by Shalev’s tam and at the time, they observed that it was present when blood glucose levels were high. They first analyzed if this was the only situation where TXNIP was present and then, set out to find a drug that could treat it.
The research team deleted TXNIP from the genomes of lab mice and tested whether they developed diabetes. The mice did not develop the condition. While performing additional tests, the team came to the discovery that verapamil (which acts as a calcium channel blocker) deprived TXNIP of the calcium ions it required to become functional.
After the promising results obtained in their animal testing phase, the research team looks forward to starting their year-long human trial phase. The clinical trial will be a double blind (which means that neither the patients nor the researchers know whether the administered substance in each case is placebo or verapamil). Patients will continue to use their insulin pump during this time.
If human testing proves that the substance is efficient, it would be a complete breakthrough in diabetes science.
“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,”
Dr. Fernando Ovalle, Director of the University’s Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic said in a statement.
According to Ovalle, verapamil working in humans would represent a truly remarkable development in a disease that significantly alters patient’s quality of life and requires billions of dollars annually.