Oral supplement may prevent diabetes

Michelle Kibiger

Researchers in the University’s Clinical Research Center are testing a new drug that may prevent the onset of one type of diabetes.
The University is one of 10 centers across the United States participating in the Diabetes Prevention Trial. The program tests people for Type I diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes.
Type I diabetes results from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar. Approximately 10 percent of 15 million diabetics in the United States have Type I diabetes.
Based on test results to determine a patient’s risk for developing diabetes, doctors will recommend insulin treatments administered either orally or by injection.
The oral supplements may prevent at-risk candidates from developing Type I diabetes later in life. This treatment cannot be used by people who already have diabetes because intestinal acids break the supplements down.
Dr. David Brown, head of pediatric endocrinology at University Hospital said the oral insulin treatment is neither a vaccine nor a replacement for intravenous insulin treatments.
“Oral agents are used to increase the efficiency and utilization of insulin,” Dr. Brown said. “The oral insulin treatment does not change blood sugar level.”
Individuals who possess a more than 50 percent chance of developing Type I diabetes receive insulin injection treatments instead of oral supplements.
Lois Finney, coordinator of the diabetes trial, said injection treatments have proved effective in human subjects, while oral treatments are still in the testing stages.
Finney said patients are tested for a five-year period to determine if they will develop Type I diabetes. She said possessing a greater risk for the disease does not necessarily mean a patient will develop diabetes.
Patients must pass an oral glucose tolerance test to be part of the oral insulin trial. A glucose tolerance test measures the body’s ability to break down and use carbohydrates, which are primarily body sugars.
Maria Giles, a six-year-old Cottage Grove girl, was to participate in the oral insulin test program but failed an oral glucose tolerance test last week.
But because the program has a number of volunteers, Giles’ failure to pass the glucose test is not considered a setback. Finney said she hoped to schedule another candidate, a boy from northern Illinois, for his glucose tolerance test this week.
However, the boy’s family has not yet agreed to participate in the program.