Research and studies continue to generate new possibilities towards the treatment of diabetes.
Research and Studies
February 16, 2003 — (BRONX, NY) – Opening up the possibility of a new approach to the treatment of diabetes, researchers have shown in animal studies that a compound long available in Europe can simultaneously block three of the major biochemical pathways responsible for the blood-vessel damage that causes serious diabetic complications.
Dr. Michael Brownlee of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University was the senior researcher for the international consortium that carried out the study, which appears in the current issue of Nature Medicine.
Research over the past 30 years has identified four biochemical pathways by which diabetes injures blood vessels – damage that makes diabetes the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and nontraumatic amputation of legs in the U.S.
In this study, from the Einstein Diabetes Research Center, the drug benfotiamine completely blocked three of those pathways when tested in diabetic rats, animals often used as models for studying the disease. Benfotiamine is a synthetic derivative of thiamine (vitamin B1) and has been available for more than a decade in Germany. It is prescribed there for treating diabetic neuropathy, sciatica and other painful nerve conditions but has never been tested in placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials.
In people with diabetes, all cells are bathed in blood that contains elevated levels of glucose. Most cells still manage to keep their internal glucose at normal levels. But certain cells – particularly endothelial cells that line arteries and the capillaries of the retina and kidney – are unable to regulate glucose and instead develop high internal levels of the sugar, which they can’t completely metabolize. As a result, glucose-derived “intermediate” metabolic products accumulate inside these cells, where they activate pathways of cellular damage that can eventually lead to blindness and other complications.