The arthritis drug anakinra (Kinemet) tested favorably during a recent clinical trial, for helping to control blood glucose levels in diabetes. It is a recombinant human interleukin-1-receptor antagonist. What does this mean? The immune system produces cytokines in response to inflammation in the body. The cytokine, Interleuken-1 (IL-1) shows up in areas of inflammation, like in the joints or other places in the body. Anakinra blocks the production of interleukin-1. That's why it's used to treat arthritis.
In diabetes, interleukin-1-beta is produced in the pancreas. High glucose levels appear to trigger the release of interleukin-1-beta. This not only reduces the function of beta cells in the pancreas, but can cause beta cells to self-destruct. In a clinical study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 12, 2007, participants who had type 2 diabetes, received 100 mg of anakinra by self-administered subcutaneous injection once a day for 13 weeks. A control group received a placebo shot. During the study, all participants continued to receive their regularly scheduled diabetes medications, and kept all other aspects of their lifestyle the same as usual.
Anakinra improved blood glucose levels in all the people who received it during the trial. It also improved the production of insulin by the pancreas beta-cells. Overall, this significantly lowered A1c levels for the group. No one in the study suffered hypoglycemia from anakinra.
Researchers are encouraged by the results of this study. Anakinra is relatively short-acting as an arthritis medication, lasting only about 6-8 hours. Testing for long-term effects and effective doses for diabetes has yet to be done and scientists may also develop longer-acting forms of anakira to help increase it's therapeutic value as a diabetes medication.
Photo by Dain Hubley