Drugs may be 'magic bullet' for infants born with rare form of diabetes

Feb 03, 2009

Infants born with a rare form of inherited diabetes might avoid irreversible damage to their pancreases if they are treated immediately with sulfonylurea drugs rather than insulin, according to a new report in the February 4th issue of Cell Metabolism.

The researchers confirmed in studies of mice that the disease results from a defect of potassium channels in the pancreas that normally serve as the link between glucose metabolism and insulin release. In those with the mutations, the channels fail to close in response to glucose as they usually would. Sulfonylurea drugs that have been used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes restore function and reverse disease symptoms by blocking those channels, they found.

If the disease is caught early enough, their findings suggest that the drug therapy may circumvent secondary damage to insulin-producing cells in the pancreas that is caused by poor blood sugar control.

" The major clinical consequence [for people with neonatal diabetes] is a switch in therapy from insulin treatment for life to sulfonylurea drugs that block this channel. It's potentially a magic bullet treatment," said Colin Nichols of Washington University School of Medicine.

The researchers earlier found that mice with "overactive" potassium channels throughout their bodies develop profound neonatal diabetes. However, those mice died shortly after birth, preventing further study of how the disease would progress.

Those findings nevertheless predicted the human disease, Nichols said. Indeed, it's now known that mutations of the potassium channels are the most common cause of neonatal diabetes.

In the new study, the researchers created a mouse that allowed them to permanently turn the potassium channels "on" specifically in the insulin-producing ? cells of the pancreas. These mice also developed high blood sugar, which progressed to severe diabetes. In addition, the animals showed a secondary decline in insulin in pancreatic cells and a loss of ? cell structure.

The animals were relieved of their symptoms when the researchers transplanted normal, insulin-secreting pancreas cells into them, evidence that the secondary effects of their condition were the result of chronic high blood sugar or low insulin levels. Moreover, the mice with neonatal diabetes also maintained normal levels of insulin release and avoided ? cell loss when treated with sulfonylureas.

If the results hold true in clinical studies, the discovery in mice may have real promise for patients with neonatal diabetes, Nichols said. "It suggests that babies should probably be treated with sulfonylureas from the beginning—or as soon as possible. Early diagnosis will be key."

Source: Cell Press

Explore further: Researchers find that coronary arteries hold heart-regenerating cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Molecular medicine comes to the rescue

Sep 13, 2006

On Monday, August 14, Lilly Jaffe, a six-year-old North Shore suburban girl who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was one month old, checked into the Clinical Research Center at the University of Chicago Medical ...

Recommended for you

Student seeks to improve pneumonia vaccines

3 hours ago

Almost a million Americans fall ill with pneumonia each year. Nearly half of these cases require hospitalization, and 5-7 percent are fatal. Current vaccines provide protection against some strains of the ...

Seabed solution for cold sores

4 hours ago

The blue blood of abalone, a seabed delicacy could be used to combat common cold sores and related herpes virus following breakthrough research at the University of Sydney.

Better living through mitochondrial derived vesicles

Aug 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—As principal transformers of bacteria, organelles, synapses, and cells, vesicles might be said to be the stuff of life. One need look no further than the rapid rise to prominence of The ...

Zebrafish help to unravel Alzheimer's disease

Aug 19, 2014

New fundamental knowledge about the regulation of stem cells in the nerve tissue of zebrafish embryos results in surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes in the human brain. A new study by scientists at ...

Engineering new bone growth

Aug 19, 2014

MIT chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold ...

User comments : 0