The Parkinson’s disease medication bromocriptine, which increases dopamine levels in the body and has been reported to improve insulin sensitivity, reduces blood pressure and improves artery health in young people with type 1 diabetes.
The research, led by the Heart Institute at the Children’s Hospital Colorado and published in the journal Hypertension, shows that there is potential to repurpose this medication to help improve cardiovascular health in this at-risk group.
“We know that abnormalities in the large vessels around the heart, the aorta and its primary branches, begin to develop in early childhood in people with Type 1 diabetes,” said first author Michal Schäfer, a researcher and medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in a press statement.
“We found that bromocriptine has the potential to slow down the development of those abnormalities and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease in this population.”
The study enrolled 42 young people, aged 16 years on average, who were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive quick release bromocriptine or placebo for four weeks. After that, their blood pressure and central aortic stiffness were measured. After a four-week washout period, the participants swapped groups and carried out the same procedure.
Follow-up data was available for 34 individuals. The results showed that their systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced after treatment by an average of five mmHg and two mmHg, respectively. Signs of arterial stiffness, which can be an early indicator of heart disease, were also significantly reduced.
“A stiff aorta predisposes a patient to other health issues, such as organ dysfunction or atherosclerosis and higher stress or strain on cardiac muscle,” Schäfer said. “We were able to take it a notch further and show, using more sophisticated metrics, that these central large arteries are impaired, and impairment among adolescents and young adults with Type 1 diabetes may be decelerated with this drug.”
Bromocriptine was approved by the FDA in 2009 to treat adults with Type 2 diabetes due to its beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity. Research has shown these individuals have improved cardiovascular health after taking bromocriptine, but the effects in type 1 diabetes patients were less clear.
The results of this study are promising for young people with type 1 diabetes, but need to be validated in a larger group and over a longer period of time.
“Epidemiological studies indicate an association between an earlier age of type 1 diabetes diagnosis and adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Therefore, the development of therapeutic strategies to slow progression of systemic vascular disease in youth with type 1 diabetes is of critical importance,” emphasize the authors.