Drug Shows Promise in Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

Charlottesville, Va., April 2003 An anti-inflammatory drug called lisofylline, originally developed as an infection-fighter for cancer patients, could be beneficial for people at risk for Type 1 diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Virginia Health System.

U.Va. researchers discovered that two weeks of lisofylline (LSF) treatment reduced the incidence of Type 1 diabetes in mice to 25 percent compared to 92 percent in mice who did not receive LSF. Diabetes was induced in the mice by multiple low doses of a certain drug.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, occurs when the immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas, leaving the body unable to produce insulin. Insulin is needed by the body to process sugar, the basic fuel for cells.

"Our hope is that, one day, a clinician can use lisofylline to slow down or prevent this disease in people at high-risk for Type 1 diabetes," said Dr. Zandong Yang, an assistant professor of research in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at U.Va. "We think this drug may have the ability to protect these insulin-producing cells from death or damage."

The research by Dr. Yang's team is published in the April 30 online issue of the journal Pancreas, found on the web at: http://www.pancreasjournal.com.

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The U.Va. researchers say lisofylline protects insulin-producing cells by inhibiting the production and action of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins produced by immune cells that can cause cell death and dysfunction. Importantly, LSF treatment also restored insulin secretion, according to the U.Va. study.

More than 700,000 Americans suffer from Type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA.) Most require several insulin injections a day or an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about five to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, according to the ADA. People with Type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and eye and kidney diseases. Causes of Type 1 are believed to include autoimmune, genetic and environmental factors.

Source: University of Virginia Health System