Repurposing of verapamil as a beta cell survival therapy in T1D

Corrected graph for webThe loss of insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells is a key factor in type 1 diabetes (T1D), but therapies to halt this proce
ss are not available. The resulting inability of the patient’s body to produce adequate amounts of insulin results in high blood sugar, diabetes and the many complications associated with diabetes. Recently, we have discovered a specific protein (TXNIP) in human beta-cells that promises to be a powerful target to block beta-cell loss in T1D. Moreover, we have now found that a commonly used blood pressure medication (verapamil), effectively lowers beta-cell TXNIP expression, promotes beta-cell survival and rescues mice from T1D even after they develop overt diabetes and high blood sugar. This makes verapamil a potentially attractive drug for T1D, but no reliable results in patients with T1D are currently available. Our goal is therefore to conduct a well-controlled clinical study to test the efficacy and safety of verapamil in adults with recent-onset T1D and to demonstrate that subjects on oral verapamil daily for 12 months will have improved insulin production. The study will include state-of-the art clinical assessments as well as molecular testing for non-invasive markers for therapeutic follow-up. Results will have major implications with potential immediate impact on the clinic and the treatment of patients with T1D. STZ imagesVerapamil has been on the market for decades, is considered safe and well tolerated and is given orally. The proposed studies will provide the first critical step necessary to officially repurpose this medication for the use in T1D. Ultimately, this work should help develop a novel therapy for T1D that is highly distinct from currently available treatments and enhances the patient’s own beta-cell mass and function. By doing so, is should reduce or even eliminate the need for multiple daily insulin injections or insulin pumps, improve glucose control and quality of life and prevent diabetes complication.

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More than an decade of basic-science breakthroughs in the lab of Anath Shalev, M.D., led to this new verapamil study at UAB. Follow Shalev's trail of discovery, from simple question to a completely novel approach for diabetes treatment in The Mix, UAB's research blog. Click the link to also see an animation of how verapamil works and an interview with Dr. Shalev. 


There are many opportunities to support this study and/or other efforts of the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center.  If you are interested in finding out more, would like to make a gift or get involved, please contact:

Erica Hollins
Senior Director of Development and Community Relations
Phone: 205-996-6839

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