UAB Enrolling New Trial for Testing Verapamil as Potential Cure for Diabetes

10:44 AM

Pancreas beta cells produce insulin, helping the body
process blood sugar.  Damaged beta cells are unable
to produce insulin at the needed rate, resulting in
excessively high levels of blood sugar, and diabetes.
Exciting study results in the world of diabetic research were published at the end of last year by a group out of UAB investigating Verapamil as a potential cure for diabetes.  Verapamil is a commonly prescribed calcium channel blocker that is effectively used in treating high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and even cluster headaches and migraines. Researchers targeted Verapamil after a secondary function was discovered -- Verapamil also reduces the amount of a protein called TXNIP in cells.  TXNIP is a protein that has been isolated in the pancreas beta cells; the amount of TXNIP increases as the the beta cells try to process higher levels of blood sugar.  At a certain level, TXNIP can be toxic to the beta cells and result in beta cell dysfunction and even death.  That means the body can no longer process high blood sugar effectively, leading to the effects of diabetes that we are so familiar with.

In mice studies at UAB, Verapamil was used to reduce the amount of TXNIP proteins within the pancreas beta cells, effectively "reversing" diabetic damage to the pancreas and preserving beta cell function.  They report that diabetes "was eradicated" in the treated mice who had blood sugar levels above 300 mg/deciliter.

Since the safety of Verapmil for human use has been verified by its previous uses on the market as a blood pressure treatment, UAB is set to enroll its first human study to begin testing its effects on human pancreas beta cells.  Enrollment is set to begin in early 2015, and UAB researchers are looking for patients aged 19 to 45 with type 1 diabetes.  The study will run over one year and will compare Verapamil versus placebo in a randomized distribution.  Insulin pumps will be used as directed throughout the study for both groups and a continuous glucose monitoring device will be used to accurately report hourly readings of sugar levels.

Non Proliferative diabetic retinopathy 
With diagnosis of diabetes growing at a rapid rate in this country, any new research in the area is promising.  In addition to the systemic health effects, ocular side effects from diabetes are prevalent and can result in permanent blindness.  In patients with type 1 diabetes, 90% of patients have some form of ocular microvascular damage or retinopathy when living with the disease for 15 years or longer.  25% of these people have proliferative retinopathy which is a huge risk of permanent vision loss.  Annual eye examinations are essential in diabetic care to preserve vision and assess systemic health related to blood sugar control.  

For more information concerning the UAB study or to enroll, contact Kentress Davison at 205-934-4112 or 205-975-9308.

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