A drug, used for treating impotence, called yohimbine has been shown to improve insulin responses in people with type 2 diabetes and a specific gene mutation.

The gene mutation studied was a genetic variant of ADRA2A which encodes the alpha(2A)- adrenergic receptor. This gene variant is present in around 40 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes and impairs secretion of insulin.

Impotence treatment

Yohimbine, which has recognised medicinal uses as a treatment for impotence, has previously shown potential as a possible remedy for type 2 diabetes. The drug heklps to prevent adrenaline from suppressing the release of insulin by the pancreas.

Researchers from Lund University Diabetes Center in Malmo ran a clinical study to investigate the effect of yohimbine on insulin secretion. The trial involved 50 patients of both genders with type 2 diabetes, including those with the ADRA2A genotype.

Participants in the study had 3 visits in which they were given either a dose of yohimbine or a dummy dose. One group of participants had a placebo during each of the three visits, another group had a 10mg dose of yohimbine at the visits and a final group had a 20mg dose of the drug at the visits. Insulin secretion was tested 30 minutes into an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and this value was compared across the groups.

Improved insulin secretion

The first test that was taken assessed the participants insulin levels before any doses of yohimbine were given. Results of this initial test showed that participants with the mutated ADRA2A genotype secreted 25% less insulin at the 30 minute mark of the OGT test.

When the effects of yohimbine were assessed, the 20mg doses of the drug in, participants with the mutated gene, were shown to result in a 29% increase insulin secretion after 30 minutes of the OGT test. The result meant that taking the higher dose of the drug enabled people with the gene variant to secrete a similar level of insulin.

Lifestyle changes

Whilst 40 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes carry this genetic variant, if other factors, such as lifestyle factors, that lead to type 2 diabetes are also present, this would reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. As a result, lifestyle changes should be the foundation of type 2 diabetes treatment.

Dr. Anders Rosengren, the corresponding author of the study, stated: “These findings open up a potential avenue to more personalized treatment using a combination of lifestyle modification and more targeted drugs.”

As with all medications, there are side effects associated with the drug which include a higher likelihood of experiencing stress, anxiety and hypertension.