Preventing Beta Cell Loss and Diabetes with Calcium Channel Blockers

In previous work, Dr. Anath Shalev’s team had shown that a gene that mediates oxidative stress (called TXNIP) is highly activated in beta cells from diabetic animals or when cells are exposed to high glucose levels in a test tube. They also showed that reducing the gene activity could protect mice from diabetes and that increasing the gene activity in beta cells could cause beta cell loss and diabetes. These findings suggested that drugs inhibiting this gene could be useful for preserving beta cells in T1D. In this new report, Dr. Shalev’s team found that commonly used drugs to treat high blood pressure called calcium challen blockers, including verapamil, can reduce TXNIP gene levels in mouse and human islets in the lab and can prevent or reverse diabetes in mouse models of T1D and T2D by preventing beta cells in T1D and that using available calcium channel blockers might be a viable therapeutic approach to maintaining beta cell health in T1D.


Xu G., Chen J, Gu J and Shalev A. Preventing Beta-Cell Loss and Diabetes With Calcium Channel Blockers. Diabetes. 2012;61: 848-856.

Investigators and Institutions:

The study was led by Dr. Anath Shaley at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Ramifications for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes:

This work suggests that therapeutic strategies that work to reduce activity of the stress related gene TXNIP could be effective at preserving and protecting beta cells in individuals with T1D. Such a therapy might slow the progression of T1D or prevent its onset. This research suggests that existing drugs used to treat high blood pressure could have the desired effect on this gene. More work is required to determine if the currently available calcium channel blockers are suitable for use in T1D and to identify more specific and selective means to lower the gene activity in beta cells.

JDRF Involvement:

This study was funded in part by a grant to Dr. Shalev through the JDRF-JNJSI partnership.