Researchers reported in an article published February 13, 2018, that the drug methyldopa, used to treat high blood pressure (and commonly prescribed for pregnant women), might delay progression of new-onset T1D in people with a specific genetic risk factor called HLA-DQ8. Methyldopa works by inhibiting an immune signal associated with DQ8. The team tested 20 individuals and found the drug was well tolerated, caused few side effects and inhibited T cell activity in a subsequent laboratory blood test. The treatment lasted only 3 months, and more rigorous testing will be needed to demonstrate a therapeutic effect in preventing or treating T1D. A larger clinical trial is planned to further investigate this drug in T1D.
JDRF funded earlier work in the development of methyldopa as a potential therapy for T1D, including a 2013 clinical trial, and findings from JDRF’s Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) suggested early on that DQ8 inhibition could have therapeutic potential in T1D. Methyldopa is currently in development by IM Therapeutics, a startup formed by lead scientists (and former JDRF grantees) Aaron Michels, M.D., and Peter Gottlieb, M.D., of University of Colorado.