The drug showed promise in both animal experiments as well as in trials with donated human insulin-producing cells.

"Yohimbin neutralised the effects of the risk gene. The carriers of the risk gene gained the same capacity to secrete insulin as those without the risk variant," said principal study author Yunzhao Tang from the Lund University in Sweden.

"The concept of treatment personalised to the individual's risk profile has great potential. Our results show that it is possible to block the effects of a common risk gene for type 2 diabetes," lead researcher Anders Rosengren, the diabetes researcher at the Lund University, said.

Researchers from the Lund University reported in 2009 that a common gene variant in the population makes insulin-producing cells sensitive to stress hormones. This greatly impairs the cells' capacity to secrete insulin.

For the new study, 50 patients with type 2 diabetes were recruited. Of all the participants, 21 of them did not have the risk variant.

When Yohimbin was administered, the capacity to secrete insulin improved.

"The fact that this was an old drug made this journey a lot faster. The substance had already been tested for safety and approved", co-researcher Erik Renstram added.

"Purely theoretically, the drug should be effective for 40 percent of Type 2 diabetes sufferers, who are carriers of the genetic risk variant," Rosengren added.

However, the researcher added that the substance must also be tested on more patients before it can become a clinical drug.

The study appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


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