A newly-developed drug cocktail makes insulin-producing cells multiply – a discovery that could lead to a cure for diabetes, researchers claim.
People with diabetes have a shortage of beta-cells, which make insulin. Without enough insulin, they are unable to properly process glucose.
The team, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, had already discovered that a drug called harmine could supercharge the pancreas cells to make 10 times more insulin-making beta cells a day.
What’s more, when harmine was given in combination with a second drug – normally used to boost bone-growth – 40 times more beta cells formed a day.
The drug is experimental and in early stages of testing, but the researchers think that its powerful effect on insulin-producing cells could be a game-changer in the treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 million Americans – about 9.4 percent of the population – suffers from diabetes.
Another estimated 84 million are living with prediabetes, a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes within five years if left untreated.
Diabetes occurs when there are too few beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin or when they produce very little insulin, the hormone needed to get glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
When left untreated, diabetes can result in serious health complications such as kidney damage, eye damage, heart disease, stroke and even vision loss.
The loss of beta-cells has been linked to causing type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system mistakenly identifies beta cells as invaders and destroys them.
More recently, scientists have discovered that having a deficient number of functioning beta cells can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
According to lead author Dr Andrew Stewart, director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute, no available diabetes drug regenerates beta cells in patients with the condition.
The current study is a continuation of past work done by Dr Stewart and his team.