Testing Metformin to Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

Last November, JDRF officials announced that researchers had found biological markers for Type 1 diabetes long before symptoms appeared in children. Now another group of researchers hope to see if they can prevent Type 1 before children become symptomatic, and to do it they are planning to use a classic tool in diabetes management – metformin.

Metformin is usually associated with Type 2 diabetes, but now Scottish researchers are testing whether it can prevent Type 1. In a large-scale trial, they are planning to give the drug to children who are likely to develop Type 1 diabetes in hopes of prolonging pancreatic function or preventing diabetes altogether.

According to a BBC report, the researchers are planning to contact 6,400 Scottish families affected by Type 1 diabetes and invite children with a parent or sibling with Type 1 to have their blood tested for markers that they too will have Type 1. Those deemed to be at risk will be offered the chance to take metformin, a drug designed to lower the amount of glucose produced and released by the liver. The thinking is that metformin may prevent the pancreas from becoming stressed, and that this might somehow prevent the immune system from reaching a tipping point. The trials will be conducted by The University of Dundee and the Tayside Clinical Trials Unit in Scotland.

There are still unanswered questions about this effort. In some respects, while metformin may be one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, there is even some mystery surrounding how it exactly works. It’s also not clear from the report when the trial will begin, and researchers aren’t saying how much longer they hope to prolong beta cell function.

Still, it is promising to see efforts underway to prevent Type 1 diabetes before children even have to take insulin. Here’s hoping we’ll hear of similar studies, and positive results from this trial, in the coming months,

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Emma Dunn is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing student at Emerson College in Boston. Besides writing for Type2Nation and Insulin Nation, she also writes for the online publication, The Odyssey.

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