YOUR HEALTH: Type 1 Diabetics could get new help from an old medicine

DENVER, Colorado – Lisa Meyers wears an insulin pump and checks her blood sugar several times a day to keep her Type 1 Diabetes in check.

"It's a 24/7 thing," she said.

"It's just a constant thought about blood sugar and how it relates to what I'm gonna do."

Less than 10% of people with Diabetes have Type 1 Diabetes.

She's a diabetes educator and helps patients navigate the disease.   It's a job she wishes she didn't have.

"If other people could be prevented from having to live this, that, to me, is a joy."

Dr. Aaron Michels says doctors are better than ever at predicting who will develop Type 1 Diabetes.

"If a disease can be predicted, it really should be prevented."

About 60% of patients have a gene called HLA-DQ8.

In a years-long search for a way to block that gene, Dr. Michels found promise in an unlikely place: a decades-old blood pressure drug called methyldopa.

"It blocked DQ-8.   It blocked its function," explained Dr. Michels, Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Medicine at Frieda and George S. Eisenbarth Clinical Immunology and Endowed Chair at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

That means the drug could delay the diagnosis, or even prevent it altogether.

If the research pans out in bigger trials, it will be a major milestone.

NEW RESEARCH:   Researchers came to their findings by using a "supercomputer" to analyze every small molecule drug that had been approved by the FDA.   The study revealed that, as well as inhibiting DQ8, methyldopa did not interfere with the immune functioning of cells.   The latter point is one of the downfalls of immunosuppressant medications, which have also been investigated for the prevention and treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.   The researchers confirmed their findings in mice, as well as in a clinical trial of 20 individuals with Type 1 Diabetes.

"Living with diabetes is a lot of work," said Dr. Michels.   "And it's a lot of work that doesn't go away."

For Dr. Michels, it's personal.   He's been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 26 years.

"Things really do need to be done to lessen the burden for patients and their families."

His oldest daughter has it too.

"Any amount of time we can have a child and their family not have to deal with those burdens of Type 1 Diabetes would be fantastic."

People with the DQ-8 gene are about ten-times more likely to develop Type 1 Diabetes.

A larger clinical trial will start enrolling patients in the next couple of months.    People with a relative with Type 1 Diabetes can get tested for the DQ-8 gene.   If they have it, they may be a candidate to enroll in the trial.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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