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Diabetes drug key to beating organ transplant organ rejection


Diabetes drug. PHOTO:

A discarded diabetes drug could be the key to beating organ transplant rejection, a landmark study has found.

One in six heart recipients die within a year, and those that do survive face higher risk of infection, weight gain, cancer and diabetes from their life-long regime of immunosuppressant drugs.

However, a new study by Queen Mary University of London found that by repurposing a drug designed to treat diabetes, they could speed up the process necessary for the blood system to fuse into the new organ. The researchers say this finding could be a game-changer – and a cost-effective one at that, since the drug already exists and has proved in other trials to be safe in humans.


The drug is designed to increase the activity of an enzyme called glucokinase, which is suppressed in people with type 2 diabetes. For diabetes patients, this enzyme is essential for regulating blood sugar levels.

For those who undergo a transplant, the enzyme is essential to drive the movement of a certain T cell (known as a ‘regulatory T cell’) into human organs. Inside the organ, the T cells build up the immune system, helping it to fuse with the new body, and preventing rejection. The drug had been sidelined for further development for diabetes patients, but a team at Queen Mary University decided to test its effects on transplant patients. Testing the drug on mice, they found that it dramatically increased the flow of regulatory T cells into the new organs.

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