Researchers claim that a newly developed drug combination can multiply insulin-producing cell rates so much that it could lead to a cure for the 21st-century epidemic called diabetes.
People with diabetes don’t produce enough insulin-producing cells, called beta cells. As a result, the body lacks insulin so it can’t properly process glucose.
In the past, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai discovered Harmine – a drug which can supercharge the pancreas cells to produce ten times more beta cells a day.
But, when they combined this drug with another one that’s commonly used for improving bone growth, the production of beta cells increased by 40 times a day.
Although the drug is still in the early stages of testing, scientists believe that it has the potential to change the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes forever.
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases nowadays with 9.4% of the American population suffering from it. What’s more, around 84 million Americans have prediabetes, and many of them are not even aware of it.
Prediabetes is when the person’s blood glucose levels are higher than average. If left untreated, this condition will probably lead to type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes develops when the pancreas doesn’t have enough beta-cells to produce insulin, or when they can’t produce enough insulin. This hormone allows the glucose to enter from the bloodstream into cells.
If you don’t treat diabetes, it could damage many vital organs and systems in your body. The most common health complications caused by untreated diabetes include eye damage, kidney damage, stroke, heart disease, vision loss, and nerve damage.
The development of type 1 diabetes has been linked to loss of the insulin-producing beta cells where the body sees them as invaders and destroys them to “protect” itself.
It was only recently when researchers discovered that lack of functioning beta cells could contribute to the type 2 diabetes development.
The director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute, Dr. Andrew Stewart, says that no available diabetes drug is capable of regenerating pancreatic beta cells in people with diabetes.
In 2015, he and his team discovered that the drug Harmine encouraged the production of new beta cells in adult humans at low rates.
Another 2017 study discovered genetic abnormalities in the rare pancreatic tumor made up of beta islet cells which constantly produce insulin, called insulinoma.
Scientists noticed that insulinomas held the answer to making beta cells regenerate. They identified the second class of drugs, TGFβSF inhibitor drugs, which encouraged human beta cells to quickly replicate when taken with Harmine.
The average rate of beta cell replication is 0.2% a day. This percent increased to an impressive 2% a day when Harmine was administered. However, when Hermine was combined with the new drug, the rate increased to 5%-8% a day.
Dr. Stewart is excited about the prospect of finding a drug cocktail that makes the insulin-producing cells regenerate at rates that are sufficient to replenish beta cell mass in people.
The next step is to find out how to deliver these drugs directly to the pancreas, thus enabling a new treatment for diabetes.