New diabetes medications for individuals with type 2 diabetes may be on the horizon

Many doctors recommend that in addition to healthy lifestyle changes, patients who have type 2 diabetes take diabetes medications to help control their blood sugar levels.

A group of Mayo Clinic researchers who recently published a study in the journal PLoS ONE explained that most of the drugs used to treat individuals with type 2 diabetes work by increasing the liver's production of insulin or by providing supplements of the hormone.

However, they tested a new type of diabetes medication on mice to determine whether or not it has potential benefits for human use. The treatment blocked a certain enzyme called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), which breaks down the hormone into smaller pieces after it is secreted from the pancreas. This process helps regulate insulin levels in the blood.

"Insulin levels in the blood reflect the balance between how much is secreted and how fast it is broken down. Blocking the breakdown of insulin is simply an alternative method for achieving the same goal as many existing diabetes therapies," said lead researcher Malcolm A. Leissring, PhD.

The study's results showed that mice in which IDE had been genetically removed or deactivated had lower body weight, more overall insulin and controlled their blood glucose levels more effectively than rodents whose IDEs functioned normally.

The scientists said that although these findings may indicate that IDE inhibitors are a viable treatment method for humans with type 2 diabetes, the drugs should not completely block the breakdown of insulin, since this can actually cause the body to become resistant to the hormone, creating the same effect as type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), individuals with type 2 diabetes are the only diabetics who can benefit from taking oral medications. These drugs are best used in combination with a diabetic diet and exercise regimen, the organization states.

Some people who have had type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years, or those who require more than 20 units of insulin per day to manage their blood sugar levels may not be candidates for oral diabetes medications. The ADA explains that if certain pills stop working after prolonged use, physicians may recommend a multi-drug regimen.