Blood Pressure

Human trials are set to go head to test whether the common blood pressure drug, verapamil, can hold back the development of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.

The choice of this drug comes as it can help reduce levels of a protein called TXNIP in the beta cells of the pancreas. Beta cells are the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Earlier research has shown that when type 1 diabetes develops, high levels of TXNIP are released and collect in the beta cells triggering a process which kills these insulin producing cells.

Human trials recruiting in 2015

The human trials, which have been supported by a $2.1 million grant from the JDRF, will be carried out by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). 52 adult patients, that have been newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will be enrolled onto the trial. Recruitment will commence early in 2015.

The effects of verapamil have shown promising effects in mouse models of type 1 diabetes, in which not only was the destruction of beta cells held back but insulin production restored. It should be noted that success in treatment of mice is not a guarantee of success in humans, partly on account of the genetic differences between mice and humans but also that the way type 1 diabetes is brought on in mice has differences to how the condition is triggered in humans.

Any success could be beneficial

If the human trials are successful, it could represent a new line of treatment for those newly diagnosed and could also bring benefits for people who have had the condition for a long time.

Dr Anath Shalev, Director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center, states: “We know from previous large clinical studies that even a small amount of the patient’s own remaining beta cell mass has major beneficial outcomes and reduces complications. That’s probably because even a little bit of our body’s own beta cells can respond much more adequately to very fine fluctuations in our blood sugar; much more than we can ever do with injections or even sophisticated insulin pumps.”

If the results in human studies do not match the success displayed in the mouse studies, it will still be useful to monitor any beneficial changes which could be increased through further research.