Researchers working on several diabetes treatments



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Posted on July 14, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

As the controversy over the diabetes blockbuster drug Avandia continues, researchers are still working on emerging treatments. Three new breakthroughs could help more people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes live longer and more active lives.

American idols, American icons, every day Americans - diabetes affects millions of lives, even causing 230,000 deaths a year. Now, a new drug, an old drug - and some bugs are making a difference.

"We were asking how caterpillars turned into butterflies," Dr. Bruce Hammock, Department of Entomology at the University of California – Davis.

That's how Hammock created a first-of-its kind diabetic drug.

"We found this enzyme in insects that control metamorphosis," said Hammock.

The enzyme is also found in humans. Taken like aspirin, it can remove the joint pain caused by diabetes.

A breakthrough awaiting FDA approval right now would allow Type 1 and 2 diabetics to end their insulin injections. It's an inhaled powder called Afrerzza and is absorbed through the lungs. It controls the boost in blood sugar levels that occurs after a meal.

Diabetic Daniel Albright is testing an old drug with a new purpose.

"When you're first diagnosed with diabetes you have anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of your insulin producing cells still available and we'd like to freeze it there," said Dr. William Russell, Director of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He's getting monthly infusions of an arthritis drug called Abatacept.  The drug keeps Daniel's immune system from killing the insulin-producing cells he has left. When tested in animals, the drug prevented full-blown diabetes. For Daniel, it means less insulin and no pump.

"I still don't have to take near as much as I would. I'm pretty thankful for that," said Daniel.

Three new ways to control, maybe even eliminate, diabetes.

Not all breaking news is taking place in the lab. A new nurses health study reveals that women with Type 2 diabetes who ate the most bran had a much lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control, the number of Americans with diabetes has tripled since 1980.