In a small study, Swedish researchers found that the impotence drug yohimbine might help people with type 2 diabetes who have a particular gene mutation that lowers their insulin production.
Among 50 men and women with type 2 diabetes partially caused by a mutation in a gene called alpha(2A)-AR, those treated with yohimbine showed improved insulin production and lower blood sugar levels, compared with those receiving a placebo.
"If a diabetic patient carries the risk mutation, he or she is more sensitive to stress hormones such as adrenaline," said lead researcher Dr. Anders Rosengren, head of the translational diabetes research group at Lund University Diabetes Center in Malmo.
About 40 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes carry this mutation. "It is not that patients are more stressed, but that adrenaline suppresses insulin secretion," he added.
Rosengren explained how the drug overcomes the effects of the mutation: "It is like driving a car with the brakes constantly on. If you add yohimbine, you release the brake and the car -- the insulin-producing cells -- can go at normal speed. The cells secrete adequate amounts of insulin in response to sugar."