Written by By G.I. Lin, CNN
A severe high dose of a cocktail of experimental diabetes medications may have reversed some of the effects of type 1 diabetes in a few subjects.
According to a study published by Nature Medicine on October 10, 20 young adults with diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition caused by excess acid buildup in the body, had their condition return to normal after two months on the medication.
The team at the MRC Primate Research Unit in the UK said previous studies on mouse models that had improved the condition left “many unanswered questions” about what happens in humans, whose cells process sugar in different ways.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Freeman Hospital in Edinburgh have shown that a group of experimental medications called islet-derived autologous cIsPT1 and/or cIIPT1 — both designed to help turn back the progression of diabetes — restored insulin production in mice with Type 1 diabetes.
The medication tested in this study appears to lower glucose levels in the blood and hormone levels in the body, said Dr. Paul Kynaston, a diabetes specialist and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s Freeman Hospital.
“The fact that someone’s glucose levels go down and their hormone levels also go down when taking these (medications) means it’s almost like the body’s trying to send you messages about its ability to metabolize glucose,” he told CNN.
“So it sends you quite a good signal that it’s dealing with a problem, but then you need to respond — in this case, by adding in insulin,” Kynaston said.
The medication tested in this study may help young people with diabetes revert to type 1 diabetes. Credit: GETTY IMAGES/JOHN SAMANTHA HIRSCHBERGER
The result shows that the chemical changes caused by the drugs as well as what controls them — such as insulin — could influence the regulation of human insulin levels, he added.
According to Kynaston, diabetes is the most common form of non-communicable disease worldwide.
Around one in five people living in developed countries have diabetes, the UN said earlier this year, with type 1 diabetes affecting children, adolescents and adults around the world.
In the United States, more than 7% of adults and nearly 1% of children have diabetes, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
“We know that lowering glucose levels (through insulin) is an important way to keep people with diabetes from having even more significant complications,” Kynaston said.
Kynaston also pointed out that higher amounts of C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates inflammation in the body, had also been found to predict the chance of failing or regressing on the medication.
The results were produced when the drugs were taken with a therapy containing sulfonylurea, a medication that decreases the risk of blood clots and heart attack by increasing circulating blood glucose levels.
Kynaston described the findings as “encouraging,” but warned that more research was needed to fully understand the role the medications may play in treating diabetes.
“Although we can’t replace insulin in this way, this (study) suggests that a cocktail of islet-derived autologous cIsPT1 and/or cIIPT1 could be helpful in preventing diabetes in the future,” he said.
“I would be keen to do further trials with people with type 1 diabetes, especially in conjunction with insulin,” he added.