A medication commonly used to treat osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak, has been found to spark the production of cells that control insulin balance in diabetic mice in a study published on June 18, 2015 in Cell Metabolism.

The drug is called Denosumab and is already FDA approved for osteoporosis, making it more likely to move faster through further studies and into the hands of diabetics than other compounds with the same function.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system’s attack on beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the insulin pancreatic beta cells create which makes them produce more insulin, eventually wearing them out. Because of these issues with the pancreatic beta cells, much diabetes research attempts to find ways to increase functioning beta cells. But adult beta cells are reluctant to divide and grow.

In seeking a treatment for this issue, the researchers, led by Dr. Nagesha Kondegowda, who specializes in diabetes and bone disease, found a link between a bone-related pathway and the creation of pancreatic beta cells.

Based on evidence, the researchers believe a bone-related protein called osteoprotegerin (OPG) may be directly contributing to the growth of insulin-producing beta cells. When OPG and the drug Denosumab bind to a molecular pair that inhibits beta cell replication, they work to counteract the limiting effect and actually stimulate beta cell growth.

“Our study identifies a molecular brake that inhibits both mouse and human beta cell replication,” said senior author Dr. Rupangi Vasavada, in the study’s press release. “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.”

She added, “The findings suggest that there is potential for repurposing this osteoporosis drug for the treatment of diabetes.”

Hopefully this drug will move quickly through human trials and into the treatment options of those living with diabetes.

Photo Source: CBS News

To learn more about diabetes breakthroughs:

Looking to the Future: Implanted Diabetes Chips
Smart Insulin Patch: Exciting Breakthrough?