Latest research has discovered that an antispasmodic drug has the potential to prevent Type 1 Diabetes after it was tested to do so successfully in live mice.
In their latest study, researchers led by Paul Bollyky and Nadine Nagy learned that the previously discovered hyaluronan (HA), an extracellular deposit found among Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D) patients, was critical in the process of contracting T1D.
HA is commonly present outside the cells of all normal tissues, including those of the pancreas, though they are markedly increased in areas of inflammation or injury.
In T1D, for example, in its early stages, the beta cells in pancreatic islets, which produce insulin hormones for sugar control, become inflamed.
"If you twist your ankle or stub your toe, that swelling you see afterwards is due to hyaluronan," Bollyky said. "This substance is prone to soaking up water, causing fluid buildup in the injured region, a cardinal feature of inflammation."
An increase in HA in recent cases of T1D piqued the research team's curiosity, making them question the relationship between the increased HA in the pancreatic islets and the development of T1D.
"We wondered what would happen if we prevented that buildup," Bollyky said. "And we knew a drug that does that."
The drug used was hymecromone, an antispasmodic drug prescribed widely in Asian and European countries to prevent and relieve gallstone-associated spasms by inhibiting HA synthesis. It is affordable and safe to use with little incident of adverse reactions.
In the application to the study, halting the HA synthesis proved to slow the progression of T1D. The experiment was conducted successfully, first in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, then in regular mice. Mice that underwent the treatment remained T1D free while mice that did not acquired T1D quickly. While tissue analysis still showed immune system cells present around the islets even after treatment, there was no indication of autoimmune attack that would have caused further damage.
While successful in mice, it still remains to be seen if it will be effective in humans.
"No drug has previously been shown to do this in humans," Bollyky pointed out.
SPARK, a program dedicated to developing and marketing new drugs, has given funding for the team to conduct further testing and eventually clinical trials to determine hymecromone's effectiveness in humans.