"A new study by Toronto researchers on a new way to treat type 2 diabetes shows it may cause temporary remission of the disease in up to 75 per cent of patients.
The new treatment involves taking four shots of insulin -- the medication required by some diabetics to control blood sugar levels -- per day for just one month. This is a change from the usual treatment, which involves daily insulin shots over an extended period of time.
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 face 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.
Dr. Bernard Zinman, the director of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes and lead researcher of the study, explained how the new treatment works to CTV News. According to Zinman, by giving type 2 diabetics concentrated levels of insulin for a month early on in their
disease, their pancreas, in effect, gets a "a break."
"The diabetes in essence goes away because their own pancreas now can make enough insulin," he said.
After the month on concentrated doses, patients are required to take another type of medication to "maintain" the remission, said Zinman.
Zinman said that the period of remission may eventually wear off, 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.
"This is a very novel and exiting way of treating diabetes that could have important implications," said Retnakaran.
For patients involved in the study, the treatment has had a major impact on their quality of life. Francoise Hebert was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in November 2010. Seven months ago she enrolled in the study, and while she found the four daily insulin doses challenging, her blood sugar levels are now normal.
Hebert now happily tells people she "no longer has the disease," and enjoys knowing she's delayed any progression of diabetes-related complications.
"It feels fabulous," she said with a laugh. "It feels absolutely wonderful."
In addition to having her diabetes go into remission, Hebert says she's also learned how to eat better and hopes to eventually be able to get her weight under control.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily caused by an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
The research team at Mount Sinai Hospital hopes to have study results in a year or two, as well as more safety data on the medication."