Scientists sought to remedy this by repurposing an old drug to do new tricks. A new study published in Nature Medicine found that verapamil, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, could also be effective at stabilizing blood sugar levels in patients with type 1 diabetes by improving beta cells survival and function.
Dr. Anath Shalev, an author of the study and a professor of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said they found previously that an elevation of a key protein called TXNIP in response to increased calcium ion flow into beta cells was a key factor that was present in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Verapamil, which blocks calcium channel activity, was also shown to reduce TXNIP levels, stopping the loss of beta cells in patients with type 1 diabetes.
“This is the first indication that we have of something in hand now that acts very differently from any currently available diabetes treatment, and allows us to improve the patient’s own insulin producing beta cell function,” said Shalev. “This is the only one that targets this process because so far, most of the treatments are designed to replace the insulin or really squeeze the cells to secrete insulin.”