A new study by Toronto researchers on an experimental way to treat type 2 diabetes shows it may cause temporary remission of the disease in up to 75 per cent of patients.
The experimental treatment involves having non-insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetics take four shots of insulin per day for one month.
According to Dr. Bernard Zinman, the director of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes and lead researcher of the study, by giving these diabetics concentrated levels of insulin early on in their disease, their pancreas, in effect, gets "a break."
"The diabetes, in essence, goes away because their own pancreas now can make enough insulin," he tells CTV News.
Patients develop diabetes when their pancreas can't produce enough insulin to lower blood sugar levels after meals. While medications can temporarily boost insulin production, many type 2 diabetics eventaully need to begin a lifetime of daily insulin shots. Over time, patients with the disease can go on to suffer from a range of complications including blindness, heart disease, kidney problems and nerve damage.
In Zinman's study, after the month on concentrated doses, patients then take a test medication called liraglutide to see if they can maintain the remission.
The period of remission may eventually wear off, Zinman says, and so he sees the possibility of a future "top-up" treatment, which would last another month.
While the remission period can vary in patients, the prospect of improving pancreatic function is an exciting development in diabetes research, said Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, co-researcher of the study.