A recent study by researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, have shown that a commonly prescribed blood pressure drug, verapamil, totally reverses diabetes in mice and researches are now starting trials in humans to see if they can repeat the results.

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of morbidity and mortality in the world, raising the risk for various problems such as kidney disease, blindness and heart problems, to name a few. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2, but just as serious. It is caused by loss of beta cells that normally produce insulin and as a result the cells are starved of energy and blood sugar levels rise.

The research follows on previous studies that have shown that high blood sugar causes an overproduction of a protein called TXNIP. This protein is increased within the beta cells in response to diabetes . Too much of this protein leads to the death of beta cells, which then further promotes diabetes.

In the animal study conducted, they found that verapamil, a common blood pressure drug, lowers TXNIP levels in these beta cells. By using verapamil they managed to completely eradicate diabetes in these mice with already established diabetes.

Dr Shalev who led the study commented that the drug had beneficial effects even in established diabetes, by addressing the main cause of diabetes, namely beta cell loss
Current treatments focus on prescribing external insulin and other medication to reduce blood sugar levels but there is no way to stop the destruction of beta cells, so the disease just gets worse.

The researchers have now received funding to conduct a clinical trial next year in humans. Dr Fernando Ovalle, director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic, will oversee all aspects of the new study. he commented that if verapamil works in humans that it would be a truly revolutionary development in the management of this disease.. Because the drug has been widely used for other purposes it means that there is unlikely to be any safety concerns. Hopefully further studies in humans are successful.