A drug used to treat high cholesterol levels can also trigger changes in the body that cause blood sugar levels to rise. Dr Craig Beall wants to find out if the drug could therefore be used to prevent hypos. He will test the drug in rats to see if it can boost their defences against hypos. This could give us a new way to help people with diabetes avoid this debilitating complication and improve their quality of life.
Background to research
Hypos happen when blood sugar levels drop too low. They affect nearly everyone with Type 1 diabetes, and some people with Type 2 diabetes who use insulin or certain medications. They can be scary, debilitating and, if not treated quickly, have serious consequences.
The statin drug Rosuvastatin is used to treat high cholesterol levels. It also appears to increase levels of a substance in the blood called adenosine. Adenosine can raise blood sugar levels by telling the liver to produce, and the pancreas to release, glucagon (a hormone that boosts glucose levels).
Researchers have shown that Rosuvastatin can increase blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes. Dr Beall now wants to know whether we can take advantage of this to prevent hypos.
Dr Beall will test whether Rosuvastatin can boost the body's defence against hypos. He will give rats with low blood sugar levels Rosuvastatin or a dummy drug. They’ll receive an infusion of glucose to keep blood sugar levels at a constant level of between 2.5-2.8 mmol/L.
He’ll look to see whether the rats given Rosuvastatin need to be given less glucose to keep their blood sugars within that range, because their liver and pancreas produced more of it.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
Preventing hypos could drastically improve quality of life for people with diabetes, removing anxiety and making living with the condition easier. This research will give us a first insight into whether an existing statin drug has the potential to do this.
If findings are positive, this work could pave the way for studies testing the drug in people with diabetes. As Rosuvastatin is already in use, it could be repurposed relatively quickly to help people with diabetes avoid hypos and their dangerous side-effects.