June 18, 2008
It's a disease that affects millions of people in the United States: Type 1 Diabetes, destroying the body's ability to create insulin, a hormone needed to convert food into energy. But researchers at UVa feel they may have found a way to reverse the disease.
"This may be the only type of medication for people with existing Type 1 Diabetes," said Dr. Jerry Nadler, director of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Virginia.
Using a combination of two drugs, researchers were able to reverse the disease in 70% of the diabetic mice tested.
"We're very excited about the findings and these mice simulate what happens in people with type 1 diabetes," said Nadler.
Here's how it works. One of the drugs, called lisofylline, stops the body from destroying insulin producing cells. The other, called INGAP, helps the body regenerate new cells that create insulin. But even more exciting than the results is how soon this may be available to the public.
"The most exciting part to us is that this combination therapy approach could actually go to the clinic in a reasonably short period of time," said Nadler.
That's because both drugs have already been tested in humans in clinical trials separately. They Passed safety testing that usually takes years and years. And if proven effective, researchers say it would be unlike anything used to treat the disease before.
"Even if it works partially well and helps the body regenerate some insulin producing cells that stay functional, that's a major advance. There's no other therapy like that out there," said Nadler.
If all goes well, Dr. Nadler says that the drugs could be available to the public within three to five years.