Existing Medication May Be Beneficial in Treating and Preventing Type 1 Diabetes


A great deal of research has gone into better understanding type 1 diabetes and its potential causes. Many treatment options have been developed to support individuals in effectively managing their blood sugar whether through insulin, transplanted cells, or other means. Scientists are also always striving to create new options.

However, through some high-tech research, researchers may have found a way to treat and even possibly prevent type 1 diabetes using a medication that already exists and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Aaron Michels, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and his team found that more than half of individuals who are at risk for developing diabetes have the DQ8 molecule.

They believe that by blocking DQ8, they may be able to prevent the development of the disease and treat those patients already affected. Using a high-tech computer, they analyzed FDA-approved drugs for those that could be used to inhibit the DQ8 molecule. And it just so happens that one exists – methyldopa, a medication commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Unlike immune suppressant drugs which may be used to try to help manage T1D and can have undesirable side effects, methyldopa does not have a negative impact on the immune function of cells but still inhibits DQ8.

The researchers explored the potential of this drug using mice to confirm their findings, then conducted a small clinical study on 20 human participants with T1D with similar results. The results of their study may lead the way to more effective treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes as well as other health conditions. They are set to conduct a larger clinical study to further investigate the use of methyldopa for T1D. According to Dr. Michels, “With this drug, we can potentially prevent up to 60 percent of type 1 diabetes in those at risk for the disease. This is a very significant development.”

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see where this study may lead and how it may impact future treatment and prevention efforts for the disease. It could open doors to other studies on personalized treatment at the molecular level. Though not involved in this study, the DRC supports peer-reviewed novel research projects by early-career scientists focused on type 1 diabetes. To learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts, visit Our Projects.

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