drug treatments

Osteoporosis drug could prove useful for diabetics, new research finds

by Barbara Hewitt on June 24, 2015

A drug commonly used to treat the bone condition osteoporosis has been found to stimulate the production of cells that control insulin.

Scientists in the United States say they have discovered a link between the drug Denosumab and the production of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.

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Scientists say they’ve discovered a link between osteoporosis drug Denosumab and insulin production

In type 1 diabetes, beta cells die from a misguided attack by the body’s immune system, while in type 2 diabetes the body becomes resistant to insulin and beta cells try to compensate by producing more of it, which can wear them out.

So the research team from the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York searched for ways to increase functioning beta cells even although they are very resistant to divide and grow.

During the study, they found a molecular brake that inhibits both mouse and human beta cell replication. ‘It shows that two proteins, including an FDA approved osteoporosis drug, can override and release this brake to induce proliferation of rodent and human beta cells,’ explained senior author Rupangi Vasavada.

Vasavada and her colleagues studied the effects of lactogenic hormones, which are produced by the pituitary gland, stimulate lactation in females, and are known to enhance pancreatic beta cell survival and growth.

When they looked for proteins that are regulated by lactogens in beta cells, the researchers identified a bone related protein called Osteoprotegerin (OPG) and further investigation suggested that OPG may be directly involved in beta cell growth.

OPG binds to a protein and receptor pair that affects bone turnover, lactation, and a variety of other processes. Vasavada and her team found that the pair also inhibits beta cell replication and that OPG and Denosumab, which is an antibody, both counteract this effect to stimulate beta cell proliferation.

‘The findings suggest that there is potential for repurposing this osteoporosis drug for the treatment of diabetes,’ said Vasavada. She added that the team will now explore how Denosumab and OPG modulate beta cell growth and function.

She is also interested in doing clinical trials in patients with diabetes who are also being treated for osteoporosis with Denosumab or other drugs. The aim is to try to produce a potential new treatment for diabetes.

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