A common blood pressure drug is showing new promise to help treat type 1 diabetes.
The medication verapamil normally helps control blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and increasing the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.
But researchers at the University of Alabama have found that it also reversed type 1 diabetes in mice and they are now testing its potential in human patients.
Dr. Anath Shaley, one of the study's lead researchers, discovered that verapamil protects the body's beta cells, the only cells capable of producing insulin.
"Diabetes treatment has come a long way," Shaley said. "We have different insulins and we have different oral medications, but what we don't have is any approach that would promote the patient's own beta cell mass and function."
Because verapamil is already FDA-approved for controlling blood pressure, it would be available more quickly for diabetes treatment if the study is successful, compared to the typically longer approval process for new drugs.
That means new hope for type 1 diabetes patients like Joy Myers.
Though type 1 is normally thought of as juvenile diabetes, in reality it can strike people of any age.
At age 41, Myers found herself facing a near-death experience. She woke up from nine days in a coma and was told that she had type 1 diabetes.
Now her life is marked by a need to count carbs and carefully monitor her blood sugar.
Myers is a participant in the human study of verapamil's potential to treat diabetes. Though she doesn't know if the pills she takes are real or placebos, she does know that her participation could help improve lives.
"This data is going to hopefully, have an effect on the future for someone else," Myers said.
Blood-pressure drug offers new hope for diabetes cure