Type 2 diabetes medication could be useful in controlling blood sugar of type 1 diabetics

In addition to treating the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, the medication liraglutide could help individuals with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar levels, according to a new study out of the University of Buffalo.

The findings are compelling because, if they are confirmed, liraglutide could represent the first major advancement in the treatment of type 1 diabetes since injectable insulin was made available in the 1920s, the researchers said. While other medications are currently in development, liraglutide could benefit individuals with type 1 diabetes sooner, as it is already approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

For the study, the researchers examined data from 14 patients with type 1 diabetes who had been treated with liraglutide. The results, which will be published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, show that these patients all experienced significant improvements in their blood sugar control. These gains dissipated when the participants were taken off of the medication, suggesting that it was the sole cause of the benefits.

If it is confirmed that liraglutide improves blood sugar control, it would mark a major advancement in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Currently, even individuals who take great care to monitor their blood sugar levels and are on insulin therapy often experience what the researchers referred to as “glycemic excursions,” which are characterized by fluctuations in blood sugar.

Many of the participants in the current study were described by the researchers as meticulous in the maintenance of their conditions. However, even these individuals experienced greater control of their blood sugar and were able to take less insulin while on liraglutide.

"Since the development of injectable insulin, there has been nothing definitive in terms of a significant advance in type 1 diabetes treatments," says Paresh Dandona, MD, the leader of the study. "That is the tragedy of the type 1 diabetic. This study shows that liraglutide can provide even well-controlled type 1 diabetics with additional benefits that help them achieve even better blood glucose levels."

It is not known exactly how liraglutide improves glycemic control. However, the researchers said that it is suspected of suppresses a hormone called glucagon, which serves the opposite role as insulin. This substance directs the liver to produce more glucose and send it into the bloodstream.

Understanding its exact mode of operation could play a key role in adapting liraglutide into a viable type 1 diabetes medication.