BIRMINGHAM (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- A medication called Verapamil is a common treatment for controlling blood pressure, but researchers have stumbled onto another possible use for it: curing type-one diabetes. A first-of-its-kind trial is now underway, and it could be the cure for what is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Joy Myers didn't always count carbs and she didn't always have an insulin pump strapped to her hip.
"It calculates how much insulin I get," says Myers.
Myers has been doing all of this for just over a year, ever since at 41 years old, a near-death experience put her in a coma for nine days.
"As I woke up in the hospital, I was informed that I was a type 1 diabetic," Myers says.
Even though it's typically thought of as juvenile diabetes, type-one can show itself at any age. Myers was diagnosed just as a ground-breaking new study was getting underway.
Dr. Anath Shalev, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center says, "Diabetes treatment has come a long way. We have different insulins and we have different oral medications, but what we don't have is any approach that would promote the patient's own beta cell mass and function."
Dr. Shalev discovered that the blood pressure medication Verapamil protects the body's beta cells, the only cells capable of producing insulin. Verapamil not only prevented type-one diabetes in mice, but reversed it.
"This could potentially be a cure," says Myers.
As a trial participant, Myers doesn't know if these blue pills are Verapamil or a placebo. But that's not what matters to her.
"This data is going to hopefully, have an effect on the future for someone else," she says.
Since Verapamil is already FDA- approved and used for controlling blood pressure, it would already be available to prescribe for type-one diabetes if the study is successful.
Dr. Shalev is still looking for people with type-one diabetes to participate in the trial. You can email her at email@example.com.