December 3, 2012

Two Birds with One Drug


A new treatment for a silent but dangerous diabetic complication may protect against beta cell death and reverse diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The magical panacea has been given the lab tag “KU-32“.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is type of nerve damage that results from diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy affects the arms and legs. Your feet and legs are likely to be affected before your hands and arms. Many people with diabetes have signs of neuropathy that a doctor could note but feel no symptoms themselves.

The number of drugs to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy is underwhelming. Two FDA approved drugs available for the  treatment of this condition are an antidepressent and an anticonvulsant. Neither of them possess the ability to reverse the condition.

Here’s where “KU-32” may have a twofold benefit for people with diabetes. First, the potential drug can treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Secondly, after 2 days exposure to the drug, a protective effect against cell death (apoptosis) was seen in insulin-producing cells.

In addition to the marvel of the double thumbs-up “KU-32” is that it does not appear to have adverse effects in human islets that were exposed to the drug for 10 weeks. As a matter of fact, during this test period the researchers did not observe any significant changes in blood glucose and insulin levels in the mice.

Yes, it was a mouse study. When a drug is this new at the rodeo, studies cannot chance false positive results before they translate into human trials. The study concludes that “KU-32” effectively treats diabetic neuropathy and did not harm isolated human islets and may even be protective. Next stop for the company is, not surprisingly, more testing.

The research has been funded by grants from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at the University of Kansas developed the drug and had the privilege of  hanging with the DPN reversed, beta cell protected mice.

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