BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A new study at the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center may prove beneficial for thousands of Alabamians. Researchers have cured diabetes in lab mice using a commonly prescribed blood pressure medication, Verapamil. “We found that we could reverse the disease completely,” said Dr. Anath Shalev, director of the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
Several studies in the past have cured diabetes in the early phases, but failed during the human clinical trials. “None of the therapies are actually addressing the underlying cause, namely the destruction and loss of insulin-producing Beta cells,” said Dr. Shalev. That’s where Verapamil differs. In the lab mice, Dr. Shalev said those treated with the drug not only showed reversal of the disease, but also showcased increased levels of Beta cells. “So, it’s really curing the underlying cause,” said Dr. Shalev.
Beta cells are killed when higher levels of blood sugar manifest an increased presence of the protein, TXNIP. TXNIP, which is naturally in the body and not harmful at normal levels, slows the insulin production until it ultimately kills the Beta cells. Verapamil lowered the TXNIP levels to the point where Beta cells could potentially have started rejuvenating; however, Dr. Shalev said it’s not clear yet whether more Beta cells were being produced, or rather the environment was improved for them to become more clear in readings.
While other tests have struggled with the transition from animal models to human models, Dr. Shalev said this one could be different because of its target. “TXNIP is extremely well-conserved across species, almost identical in rat, mice, and human,” she said. Most of the other tests focused on the auto-immune system, which is drastically different between humans and mice, according to Dr. Shalev. The human clinical test, which is being labeled, “the repurposing of Verapamil as a beta cell survival therapy in type 1 diabetes,” will begin in early 2015. It will be a double-blind study, with 52 participants. Half will be given placebo and half will be given Verapamil. They will take one tablet orally once daily. The study will last a year. It is being funded by a $2.1 million grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
To fund diabetes research at UAB and much more, visit the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.