A short treatment with two drugs can increase the number of insulin-producing beta cells and also slow their autoimmune destruction in mice with diabetes—enough to restore normal blood sugar levels and reverse the disease. Scientists were surprised to find evidence that the therapy—a combination of gastrin and glucagon-like peptide 1—had both regenerative and immune system effects. According to the investigators, led by Alex Rabinovitch at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the findings suggest that the two drugs work together to target both the cellular mechanisms that promote beta cell growth and survival, as well as the immune mechanisms that destroy beta cells in type 1 diabetes. Combining the two drugs offers a promising strategy for reversing beta cell loss in people with the disease. Next steps will be to validate the results in a human clinical trial.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes, was funded by grants from JDRF and Transition Therapeutics, Inc., one of JDRF’s Industry Discovery and Development partners. Transition Therapeutics recently partnered with Eli Lilly and Company to develop gastrin-based therapies and to further speed testing and development.