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UK Physician Studies Drug
to Stop Progression of Diabetes

By Tammy J. Gay


Dennis G. Karounos, M.D.

photo by Tammy J. Gay

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"Diabetes affects a person's quality of life, typically with shorter life spans. At this time, there is no cure for diabetes. But it is our hope, with new drugs, we can better control the disease."

-- Dennis G. Karounos, M.D., associate professor, Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine, UK College of Medicine and director of the Diabetes Program at UK

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Lexington, Ky. (Oct. 31, 2002) -- A University of Kentucky physician is evaluating an experimental drug that may preserve the ability to produce insulin for patients recently diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).

LADA is a disease like type I diabetes in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, decreasing the body's ability to produce insulin. The disease often presents as type II diabetes; up to 3.2 million American adults who think they are suffering from type II diabetes actually may have LADA.

Dennis G. Karounos, M.D., associate professor, Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine, UK College of Medicine and director of the Diabetes Program at UK, is a co-investigator in the multicenter Phase II clinical trial. UK is one of five centers - including Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.; University of Colorado in Denver; University of Alabama in Birmingham; and University of Washington in Seattle - to begin the study sponsored by the biopharmaceutical company Peptor.

"We're hoping to prevent people from becoming dependent upon insulin therapy," Karounos said. "Diabetes affects a person's quality of life, typically with shorter life spans. At this time, there is no cure for diabetes. But it is our hope, with new drugs, we can better control the disease."

Karounos will screen approximately 300 patients to recruit approximately 20 participants to receive the experimental drug DiaPep277™, a peptide-based drug, which has been shown in a previous study to stop the progression of type I diabetes. The study will be double blind, where neither the participant nor the physician will know whether the experimental drug is being administered.

In a previous study, DiaPep277 prevented further destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, which has the potential to reduce the need for injected insulin in newly diagnosed type I diabetes patients compared to control patients, Karounos said.

Most LADA patients are diagnosed after age 40 with type II diabetes, a form of diabetes where the body produces insulin but is unable to use it. While type II diabetes patients many times can control their disease with medication, exercise, diet modification, weight control and ongoing blood sugar monitoring, most LADA patients require insulin injections.

People with recently diagnosed type II diabetes will be tested for LADA with a blood test looking for antibodies to proteins known as glutamic acid decarboxylase and islet cell antibodies.

Research shows the experimental drug triggers regulatory T cells, which secrete natural anti-inflammatory molecules cytokine hormones, which can turn off the misdirected immune cells and stop their attack on and destruction of healthy insulin-producing beta cells.

For more information about the study, call (859) 257-4058.


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