Diabetes Cure on the Horizon?
Diabetes is one of the biggest health issues in the United States today, affecting millions of Americans. Diabetes is the seventh most common cause of death in America today, and for that reason, it is a huge area in American medical research. What if it were possible to cure Diabetes? Imagine how many lives would be saved and how much longer people would live. Well, new research shows that there may be hope for Diabetes sufferers, and one day in the near future, they may be able to overcome the disease entirelyat least patients with Type-1 Diabetes.
What is the Difference between Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes?
Type-1 Diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs in childhood. It is the least common of the two forms of Diabetes, affecting only five to ten percent of diabetes sufferers. Type-1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system of the patient directly attacks the pancreatic islet cells which produce insulin. Over the course of years, the ability to produce insulin is entirely depleted in the patient, and they need to take insulin to survive. Insulin is the hormone which facilitates the transfer of energy from glucose to the cells.
Type-2 Diabetes, on the other hand, is far more common, and generally becomes an issue in adulthood. It is largely a lifestyle disease, in which the patient develops what is known as insulin resistance, where their body loses the ability to effectively transport glucose. Historically, Type-2 Diabetes has been rare in adolescent patients, but the number of patients with this condition is rising. Type-2 Diabetes is caused largely by a diet which is high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, which causes sugar levels and insulin levels to spike in an unnatural way. Over time, the body often loses its ability to effectively produce insulin as a result of this condition, necessitating medical treatment.
UAB Diabetes Study
In a groundbreaking study by the University of Alabama Birmingham, scientists have discovered that there is a medication that is currently available on the market which has the ability to counteract Diabetes in animal subjects. Mammals, at least for the most part, all use insulin the same way, so what works in mammals should also work in human beings. The results of this study were so promising that they led directly to a donation of over two million dollars by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, in order to attempt to replicate the results in a human clinical study.
This research study is titled The Repurposing of Verapamil as a Beta Cell Survival Therapy in Type 1 Diabetes. The study is projected to start in winter of 2015, and is ultimately the result of a decade plus of combined research led by the University of Alabama Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
How Does Verapamil Cure Diabetes?
This study is promoting a revolutionary new form of diabetes treatment. Scientists and medical professionals have long known that the beta cells of the pancreas are responsible for the production of insulin, but there have been no medical approaches designed to promote the regeneration of these vitally important cells. When glucose enters the blood stream, the Beta Cells produce insulin to transport glucose to cells.
Researchers at UAB have discovered that elevated blood sugar leads directly to the excess production of a particular protein known as TXNIP. Beta cells produce TXNIP, and patients with Diabetes produce way too much of it. Before UAB discovered their function and processes, no one knew what these proteins did. Unfortunately, when the Beta Cells have elevated levels of TXNIP for too long, this is toxic, and contributes to the death of the cells. This is why Type-2 Diabetes gets worse over time.
Using this knowledge, UAB Researchers tested the effectiveness of various existing drugs upon the TXNIP concentrations within Beta Cells. What they discovered was that one particular medication, known as Verapamil, had the ability to suppress TXNIP levels significantly in rodent models. Rodents with blood sugar levels higher than 300 mg/dl and clear diabetes were given Verapamil treatment, and the medication was so effective, that the rodents essentially no longer suffered from Diabetes.
What Is Verapamil Used For?
Verapamil is a type of medication which is known as a Calcium Channel Blocker. The medication is designed to alleviate symptoms such as chest pain and high blood pressure by encouraging vasodilation of the blood vessels and the heart. The medical treatment is also sometimes used for certain conditions in which the heart beats irregularly.
This is not the first time that a medication designed to facilitate vasodilation has shown potential outside of its established or hypothesized use. Viagra is an effective erectile dysfunction medication which was first synthesized in order to treat similar conditions, but was found to be more effective as an erectile aid.
Information Regarding Verapamil Diabetes Trial
Now that they have established the effectiveness of Verapamil in animal subjects, it’s time to test the effectiveness and safety of the treatment on human patients. In this study, 52 participants will be selected for study. Selected patients will range in age between 19 and 45. This study is looking to select participants that have just been diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in the three months prior to recruitment.
These patients will be divided into a control and experimental group. Half of the patients will be given placebo, whereas the other half of the patients will receive Verapamil. All patients will continue using Insulin Treatments for the duration of the study. Throughout the study, the patients will also carry a device which is designed to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels for the entire year, providing researchers with vital information with regard to their health state.
Patients experiencing unexplained weight loss, fatigue, excessive urination, or significant thirst are encouraged to visit their doctor in order to see if they suffer from Diabetes and could potentially benefit from this study.
Research Indicates that Verapamil May Be a Highly Effective Diabetes Treatment
The lead researcher in charge of this trial is Dr. Anath Shalev, who is the head of the University of Alabama Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center. He explains that it is clear from the Center’s research that Verapamil has the capability to both stop diabetes before it starts and cure those that currently suffer from Diabetes, at least in rodent subjects. By suppressing TXNIP in Beta Cells, it appears possible to fully protect and preserve the production of Insulin.
Verapamil appears to be effective, or at least highly beneficial, for practically all patients suffering from Diabetes, even those that are suffering from severe Diabetes. The primary cause of Type-1 Diabetes is the death of Beta Cells, and if it is possible to prevent these cells from dying or create an atmosphere in which they can regenerate, this would be huge. As of today, there are no treatments of this kind that are available to patients.
The secondary head of this Diabetes Cure Study is Fernando Ovalle. He also played a major role in creating this study, and will be responsible for making sure everything goes to plan with the execution of the human trial. He will be in charge of collecting data, testing, treatment, and the recruitment of participants.
How Is Diabetes Treated Today?
Today, the symptoms of Diabetes are treated, rather than the root cause. In order to promote and preserve the health of the patient as effectively as possible, doctors prescribe drugs to reduce blood sugar, and also prescribe insulin in order to facilitate the effective transport of glucose to cells throughout the body. When blood sugar levels are too high, it essentially becomes toxic, and damages the circulatory system.
If it is possible to treat Diabetes with Verapamil, this will change the way that Diabetes is treated world wide, and could even eliminate the need for Insulin and other drugs in the long term. As people are growing older and more susceptible to Diabetes, a treatment like this could save so many lives and billions of dollars each year.
Diabetes is an American Epidemic
Diabetes is one of the most dangerous and widespread diseases in the United States today. In fact, it is currently the 7th most common mortality risk among Americans. The devastating effects of Diabetes are widespreadThe circulatory issues associated with diabetes lead to a host of health issues, including amputation, kidney disease, blindness, hypertension, and heart attack.
Diabetes is an incredibly common condition, and the American government estimates that more than 12% of men and women over the age of 20 suffer from diabetes, whether they realize it or not. Beyond that 12%, it is believed that 37% of patients are pre-diabetic, meaning that their blood sugar levels are elevated. This means that, in the near future, it is nearly undeniable that the number of people with Diabetes will continue to grow. Only ten years ago, 27% of Americans over 20 were considered to be pre-diabetic.
New cases of Diabetes continue to increase in the United States, but are finally starting to slow down. Over 8% of adults were discovered to have Diabetes in the year 2012. Certain populations are more susceptible to Diabetes at this time than others. Hispanics and blacks, for example, are still experiencing Diabetes at an increasing pace, as well as men and women that never graduated or only graduated high school.
It is imperative to find new and more effective treatments for Diabetes not only for the social cost but for the financial cost of the condition as well. It is estimated by the American Diabetes Association that Diabetes cost the United States almost $250 billion dollars last year.
Changes in Beta Cell Function Play a Role in both Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes
It has been clear for many years that both Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes are largely the result of diminishing Beta Cell Function. It’s also been clear that both forms of Diabetes lead to the death of Beta Cells. It is only recently, and due to the diligent efforts of UAB researchers, that we have come closer to recognizing the root cause of the condition.
Interestingly enough, even adult patients with Type-1 Diabetes diagnosed in their youth still have some level of Beta Cell activity in spite of their autoimmune issues. Unfortunately, there are not enough Beta Cells to promote healthy blood sugar.
Previously, it was hypothesized that it would be possible to implant Beta Cells in order to facilitate healthier blood sugar, but in practice, this form of treatment is incredibly costly and of limited effectiveness. As a result of this, increased research is being put into figuring out a way to create an atmosphere in the pancreas and the Beta Cells where the body could regenerate its own tissues and restore its own ability to produce insulin. It appears that Verapamil may be able to do just that, suppressing the negative influence of TXNIP and allowing the Beta Cells to propagate and repopulate the Pancreatic Islets. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the biggest charity in the world which promotes research to help patients with Type-1 Diabetes.
The JDRF has a number of goals with regard to the research that they choose to fund. In particular, this study was chosen because the charity places a particular emphasis on research which is designed to potentially allow patients to restore proper pancreatic function. Any study which may potentially cure Type-1 Diabetes is near the top of their list for grants, and Verapamil may lead Diabetes to know longer be a chronic condition, but an actual, reversible disease. The specific name of the JDRF initiative is the Beta Cell Restoration Research Program.
One of the means by which it would be possible to cure Diabetes would be to catch the condition relatively early and provide aggressive treatment designed to amplify the function and survival of the Beta Cells which produce Insulin. Dr. Andrew Rakeman, a director at the JDRF explains that this Verapamil study is an end result of years and decades of Diabetes basic research promoted by the charity. Before new, practicable research can be conducted, the scientific foundation must be laid for those new treatments.
As a result of all of this basic research, it is now possible for scientists to use that science to create treatments that can benefit patients and save lives. This treatment may benefit patients with both Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes. Dr. Rakeman is excited about this study because it can absolutely change the way that Diabetes is treated, and may even cure the condition, at least in some facet.
In this study, the patients will see both their established Clinical Endocrinologist and the Research Practitioners. The goal of the University of Alabama Birmingham researchers will be to assess the ability of the patient to make their own insulin, and measure how well the patient is controlling blood sugar based upon the readings on their glucose sensor. The researchers will also use a modern and advanced test called C-Peptide Response in order to assess how well the patient is able to produce his or her own insulin, and how many functional beta cells that they actually have over the course of the study.
Verapamil Has Big Advantages for Patients over Other Clinical Diabetes Trials
Because of the way that Verapamil works, it is much safer for the patient than other forms of experimental treatment being studied. Most other experimental studies use medications which modulate or suppress the immune system, in order to slow down or prevent the immune system from attacking the Beta Cells. Unfortunately, drugs like these can have significant side effects which can be very hard on the patient.
Verapamil has long been used by patients suffering from high blood pressure and other related conditions. In fact, it has been used effectively for over thirty years with no significant side-effects. As a result of this, the researchers are highly confident that the use of the medication will not lead to any severe side-effects, even if the treatment is, in the end, of limited effectiveness.
There is a lot of scientific data, derived from both animal research and in vitro human tissue studies, that shows how Verapamil works, and how it can effectively treat diabetes. If this treatment is effective, it will be the only Diabetes treatment available that actually promotes the natural proliferation of natural Insulin and the natural enhancement and proliferation of Beta Cells.
How Did Researchers Discover that Verapamil Could Be Effective for Diabetes Patients?
It took more than ten years for the original hypothesis regarding Diabetes Research to turn into actionable results. It began with a simple brainstorming question, and has developed into a totally new mechanism for Diabetes treatment.
Dr. Shalev feels strongly that this Verapamil Treatment will change the way that we treat Diabetes throughout the world. At this point, it is unclear exactly how effective that the Verapamil treatment will be. It’s very much possible that this research will eventually lead patients to invigorate their Beta Cell concentrations so significantly that they can overcome the need for Insulin treatments. It’s very possible that this treatment could totally cure Diabetes. Dr. Shalev is quick to point out that, although this research points to that potential conclusion, that a single year of treatmentthe duration of this particular studywill likely not lead to a total independence from Insulin.
This does not mean that Verapamil will not be extremely beneficial to patients, however. Even if Verapamil is unable to totally reinvigorate Insulin Production, increased natural Insulin Production will benefit the patient significantly even if they still need to take Insulin. This is because natural Insulin production of any kind allows the body to tweak Insulin levels to meet the needs of the body. One of the issues with Insulin Injections alone is that they can’t adapt to particular circumstances and meet the ideal needs of the body accurately, which increases the risk of complications. Increased natural Insulin Production reduces the risk of these complications.
Even the concept of Verapamil will totally change the way that we think about Diabetes. This represents an entirely new area of Diabetes Study, one that the University of Alabama Birmingham is on the forefront of, along with the Southern Research Institute. The two institutions have combined forces to form the Alabama Drug Discovery Institute. In addition to the current study featuring Verapamil, they are also looking into other potential treatments that have the ability to modulate TXNIP levels in order to effectively treat diabetes by preserving and proliferating the Beta Cells of the Pancreatic Islets.
Dr. Shalev explains that none of the current treatments available provide ultimately effective treatment for Diabetes, which is why mortality rates associated with the disease are so significant. This research is the first time where there truly is hope to reverse the global Diabetes epidemic. The doctor also explains that it is due to the vigorous efforts of the University of Alabama Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center and the forward thinking of the administration and the friends of the school that created an atmosphere where these advances are possible.
Diabetes Cure on the Horizon