April 23, 2006
Early Stage Type I Diabetes Reversed In Mice

A treatment that reverses the development of type I diabetes might work in humans as well.

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have made an exciting discovery: a combination of human-safe treatments reversed the course of Type 1 diabetes in mice. Using this model, the researchers found that a combined therapy of lisofylline (LSF) and exendin-4 (Ex-4) effectively reversed newly acquired Type 1 diabetes, also called autoimmune diabetes.

Dr. Jerry Nadler, chief of the UVa Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and colleagues theorized that simultaneously blocking a biological pathway that damages beta cells in the pancreas, while adding a growth-promoting stimulus for beta cells, might provide the critical ability to reverse Type 1 diabetes. "This finding is very exciting because it one day may provide an opportunity to restore insulin-producing cells in people with Type 1 diabetes without the need for toxic anti-rejection medications," Nadler said. Type 1 diabetes represents 5-10 percent of all diabetes cases diagnosed, and in the United States there may be 2 million people with Type 1 diabetes.

This treatment also helped the mice to return to and maintain normal, healthy levels of blood sugar. Even after treatment was stopped, blood sugar remained normal until the experiment was completed, as many as 145 days post-treatment. This is the first time that researchers have found a way to reverse diabetes by providing a combination treatment that also could help maintain normal levels of blood sugar in a mammalian model.

The research team used two treatments to reverse the course of diabetes in this model, according to their study, published online in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. One treatment used in this study, lisofylline, suppresses certain immune cells that can destroy beta cells. Lisofylline also allows beta cells to keep producing insulin, as they normally would, even in the presence of destructive substances called cytokines that cause inflammation. In response to glucose stimulation, lisofylline helps the beta cells to enhance their insulin secretion. The second treatment was Exendin-4 (Ex-4), a potent substance that increases insulin secretion and helps the beta cells to grow.

These drugs can be tried for this purpose in humans:

“This treatment may someday benefit people with diabetes, because both LSF and Ex-4 have been tested in humans for other benefits and have been found to be safe,” Nadler said.

What stands in the way of trying this therapy in humans? Could both drugs be prescribed in the United States for off-label use now?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 April 23 09:30 PM  Biotech Therapies

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