Type 2 Diabetes Drug May Result in Increased Blood Sugar Levels

Diabetes drug liraglutide may cause insulin-producing beta cells to deteriorate.

Researchers warn that an existing drug used for patients with type 2 diabetes has the potential to effect beta cells that produce insulin and increase blood sugar levels, according to a recent study.

Scientists from Karolinska Instituet, Sweden and the University of Miami sought to evaluate the long term effects of liraglutide, which can help lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. In a mouse model, the researchers transplanted human insulin producing cells into the anterior chamber of the eye.

Over the course of 250 days, the researchers gave the mice daily doses of liraglutide and monitored how the pancreatic beta cells were affected.

The results of the study, published in the Cell Metabolism, showed there were improvements in the insulin-producing cells at first, but it was followed by gradual exhaustion with diminished secretion of insulin as a response to glucose.

"Given the lack of clinical studies on the long-term effect of these drugs in diabetes patients, this is a very important discovery," said researcher Midhat Abdulreda.

Blood-sugar suppressors, such as analogues of the incretin hormone GLP-1, stimulate the glucose response of pancreatic beta cells to prompt the secretion of more insulin.

Researchers believe that evidence is increasingly pointing to the short term efficacy of liraglutide therapy, while many patients do not respond to treatment, which can cause adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

"We also need to take these results into account before prescribing blood-sugar suppressing GLP-1 analogues when planning long-term treatment regimens for patients," said Per-Olof Berggren, PhD, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet. "Our study also shows in general how to carry out in vivo studies of the long-term effects of drugs on human insulin-producing cells, which should be extremely important to the drug industry."