Type 1 diabetes easily constitutes a multitude of sequelae and increased mortality. The process begins when beta cells in our pancreas (which are in charge of secreting insulin to lower blood sugar levels) begin to be shut down or are killed off. This in turn leads to less glycemic control which wreaks havoc in terms of our blood vessels, nerves, etc leading to long term complications and eventually death from multi-organ failure or even a heart attack.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham Alabama have discovered a magic drug that may in fact reduce the damage to beta cells and in some cases, allowing these specific cells to regenerate and facilitate the processing of sugar once more (their originally intended purpose). The magic pill is a commonly used medication for blood pressure control called Verapamil. It costs less than $5 per month at most pharmacies and could save the American healthcare system billions of dollars in the future, reducing inpatient admissions and letting patient regain control of their bodies.
How does it work? These aforementioned scientists discovered a specialized protein that was known to be destroying beta cells in episodes of hyperglycemia. As can be deduced this vicious cycle makes the disease progress more rapidly. Thioredoxin interacting protein (TXNIP) was identified as the culprit. TXNIP would shut off beta cells in hyperglycemic states, at the exact time when your body would actually be requiring more insulin. Thus it potentiated type 1 diabetes in those that weren’t well controlled. Verapamil essentially inhibits the formation of TXNIP by denying it a critical building block, calcium.
This study spearheaded by Dr. Anath Shalev has been ongoing for nearly 10 years. “If we could bring the beta cells back, the diabetes would go away. Dr. Shalev told Medscape that, “When we started treating [mice] with verapamil, blood sugars normalized, and this was due to the reappearance and normalization of insulin-producing beta cells.”
According to Medical News Today, “In mice with established diabetes and blood sugars over 300 mg/dl [very high], verapamil ‘eradicated’ the disease.” This finely made video depicts how the body is affected and how the proposed medication may work to reverse what we once thought was irreversible.