Washington: A recent research has found that if Metformin, a drug commonly prescribed for Type 2 diabetes, is taken by a Type 1 diabetic patient on a routine basis then it could slow the development of the disease and delay heart disease.
Metformin is an inexpensive treatment often used for Type 2 diabetes to lower blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver and is not prescribed for patients with Type 1 diabetes.
However, a clinical trial has for the first time revealed that Metformin can promote a patient's ability to repair their own damaged blood vessels by increasing vascular stem cells.
Heart disease is the leading cause of illness in diabetic patients, accounting for more than half of all fatalities.
Metformin may be used to lower Type 1 diabetic patients' risk of developing this complication.
Jolanta Weaver, the author of the study said, "This new research is a major development in understanding the best ways to further improve treatment in Type 1 diabetes."
She added, "As the outcome of heart disease is worse in diabetic versus non-diabetic patients, there is a need to identify additional treatment options."
"Metformin could routinely be used by patients with Type 1 diabetes to help lower their chances of developing heart disease, by increasing a repair mechanism created by vascular stem cells released from the bone marrow," she said.
"Our research is an exciting step forward as it may have positive clinical implications for patients with increased risk of cardiovascular disease by improving their treatment options. For the first time, this study has shown that Metformin has additional benefit beyond improving diabetes control when given to patients with relatively well controlled Type 1 diabetes," said Weaver.
"We have established the drug increases patients own vascular stem cells, which will help delay or slowdown heart disease.Our findings also show that the cells associated with damaged blood vessels were reduced, confirming that the repair of blood vessels was taking place in our patients," she said.
Researchers studied a treatment group of 23 people aged between 19-64 years, who had Type 1 diabetes for up to 23 years and had no evidence of heart disease.
Patients were given metformin at a dose they could tolerate, between one to three tablets a day, for eight weeks. Participants were advised to adjust their insulin to keep blood glucose levels safe.
Scientists measured patients' stem cells directly in the blood and also grew stem cells in a test tube, observing how they behaved.
Another cell type was also counted to assess damaged blood vessels.
The participants were matched with nine patients within the same age bracket who took standard insulin treatment and 23 healthy non-diabetic people aged 20-64.
Experts found that the stem cells of patients who took metformin were able to promote the repair of the blood vessels and there was an improvement in how vascular stem cells worked.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune condition that develops when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, causing a person's blood sugar level to become too high.
It is estimated around 400,000 people in the UK have the condition.
Weaver said: "We have shown that all our patients in the study had their insulin doses reduced after taking metformin and have not suffered any serious adverse effect."
"Patients with Type 1 diabetes may wish to consider discussing with their GP the possibility of adding metformin, even at a very low dose, to the insulin that they are taking. However, care needs to be taken to adjust insulin dose to prevent too low glucose levels," she added.
Findings of the clinical trial were published in the Cardiovascular Diabetology journal and funded by Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation.