New medication may prevent onset of type 2 diabetes

A medication commonly used to control blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes may also be useful in helping those with pre-diabetes avoid developing the full condition, according to a new study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University.

The investigation showed that sitagliptin not only increases insulin production but also moderates the release of glucagon, a hormone that instructs the liver to flood the bloodstream with glucose, essentially causing the opposite reaction of insulin.

The researchers said that this dual effect could give the drug many advantages over other diabetes medications. While most drugs singularly focus on increasing insulin levels, sitagliptin appears to take a more complete approach.

For the study, researchers genetically engineered mice to be obese and have high glucagon levels. The animals' conditions mimicked pre-diabetes in humans, where blood sugar levels are normal after fasting, but rise dangerously after meals. The mice were either given sitagliptin or a placebo.

The findings showed that sitagliptin significantly increased insulin levels while lowering glucagon. The sitagliptin group also had less abdominal fat. Higher levels of this type of fat have been shown to increase the risk of many cardiovascular complications and are more difficult to eliminate.

"These animal studies suggest that sitagliptin should be tested in the clinic as a possible diabetes-preventing medication," said Paul Ernsberger, who led the investigation. "It may act to shore up the function of the pancreas, which deteriorates during the onset of diabetes."

The researchers added that diet and exercise are still the two most effective ways to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. However, pharmaceuticals could give individuals' preventive efforts an extra boost.
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