JDRF-funded researchers in the US have shown that Verapamil, an approved and widely used blood-pressure medicine, is able to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice.
When scientists administered Verapamil to mice who would normally develop type 1 diabetes, their beta cells survived and continued to produce insulin. Excitingly, when Verapamil was given to mice who already had diabetes, the number of functioning beta-cells increased – effectively curing the mice.
JDRF-supported Australian researcher Professor Ann Simpson from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has developed insulin-producing cells from liver cells. This new technology has been picked up by American biotech company Nuvilex, who have obtained exclusive worldwide rights to begin commercialisation of the cells.
In Prof Simpson’s laboratory studies, the specialised line of liver cells, termed “Melligen cells” release insulin as required in response to changing blood glucose levels. Liver cells and pancreatic cells have a similar developmental origin in the fetus, prompting researchers to begin exploring the possibility of liver cells taking over the role of pancreatic islets in type 1 diabetes.