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Pennington Researchers Hope Drug Will Stop Diabetes Before It Starts

Released: Tuesday, May 25, 2004

BATON ROUGE - Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center are now recruiting participants to learn if medication can prevent diabetes in people who are likely to contract the disease.

People who are overweight, whose bodies are resistant to insulin and have higher than normal blood sugar are known as prediabetic. They have a strong chance of contracting Type 2 diabetes, a condition of high blood sugar that occurs when insulin created by the body no longer works effectively to break down sugar in the blood stream. African Americans and Latinos are also at a higher than normal risk for contracting Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at Pennington have already demonstrated that rigorous changes in diet and exercise can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes in those people who are prediabetic. However, the scientists also know those lifestyle changes aren’t easy.

“The quest here is for a safe medication which will delay or prevent diabetes even without the difficult lifestyle changes,” said Dr. George Bray, the lead researcher at Pennington.

Bray is leading a team of Pennington researchers in a study that will be conducted at several centers across the country during the next three years. Participants will be asked to take the medication and periodically report to the Pennington Center for appropriate tests.

The drug, called pioglitazone and sold under the brand name Actos, is already an effective treatment in existing cases of diabetes. Bray hopes it will also be a very effective preventive medicine.

Researchers have discovered strong links between obesity and a later onset of Type 2 diabetes, calling a recent increase in the number of cases of both a “twin epidemic.”

“The more we learn about the link between obesity, insulin resistance and the onset of diabetes, the more steps we can take to prevent it,” Bray said, “That’s especially important in light of the disturbing number of cases of Type 2 diabetes showing up across the country and the world.”

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.