SAN DIEGO – A first-in-human study suggests that a novel technique holds promise for the treatment of diabetes, reducing the complications, associated morbidity, and economic burden of this disease. Duodenal mucosal resurfacing (DMR) achieved a significant reduction in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels as well as a robust reduction in the liver enzymes aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase in patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
DMR entails thermal ablation of the duodenal mucosa via minimally invasive endoscopy. According to the pioneer behind this technique, Dr. Harith Rajagopalan, who is the founder and CEO of Fractyl Laboratories, in Waltham, Mass., DMR can be compared to laser resurfacing of the skin to remove actinic keratosis. The procedure removes the surface cells of the duodenum, which are insulin resistant, and they heal and become insulin sensitive.
The procedure does not involve surgery or implants, and takes about 60 minutes.
“We hope that once the procedure is done, patients will adopt lifestyle interventions. In the future, we plan to study whether DMR will have even greater potential if patients adapt to a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
During the annual Digestive Disease Week, Dr. Rajagopalan detailed experience with the first 39 humans treated with DMR. All patients had poorly controlled type 2 diabetes and were taking at least one antidiabetic medication. The average age was 53 years, mean body mass index was 31 kg/m2, and 50% were taking metformin. DMR was performed after 2 weeks of a low-calorie diet.
In this single-arm study, DMR reduced HbA1c by 1.2%, reduced ALT from 40 to 27 IU/L, and reduced AST from 32 to 22 IU/L over a period of 6 months. Patients with the highest entry levels of AST and ALT had the greatest reductions.
Of the 39 patients, 28 had a 9-cm ablation of the duodenum, and in these patients, the metabolic benefits were even more robust. Thus, 9 cm was identified as the optimal surface area for ablation in future studies.
The procedure was well tolerated, with minimal gastrointestinal symptoms. Adverse events were mostly mild and mainly abdominal pain due to air for the first 2 days following DMR. Three episodes of duodenal stenosis were reported over the first 6 weeks post procedure.
“These resolved with endoscopic balloon dilatation. We have since improved the procedure, and have not seen subsequent events,” Dr Rajagopalan said.
“We know that bariatric surgeries, particularly those that prevent contact of nutrients with mucosa, improve metabolic measures of metabolism in type 2 diabetes, including indicators of fatty liver disease. Revita resurfaces the duodenal mucosa. We have shown in this first-in-human study that the procedure appears to be safe, that the optimal length of the segment to be resurfaced is 9 cm, and that the procedure is associated with metabolic benefits that persist through 6 months after the mucosa heals,” Dr Rajagopalan said.
Longer-term data are needed beyond 6 months, he noted. The investigators will have 12-month data from this study in a few months, and a multicenter trial is now being conducted in Europe in patients with type 2 diabetes treated with DMR and 9-cm resurfacing of the duodenal mucosa.
“These early results raise the intriguing possibility that our intervention might be used not only in type 2 diabetes, but also in patients with metabolic liver disease and other insulin resistance–mediated diseases,” he said.
Insulin resistance plays a central role across a range of disorders, affecting many different organs, including the liver and gastrointestinal tract. Insulin resistance leads to inherent complications and associated syndromes. Just as polycystic ovarian syndrome is now called metabolic reproductive syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis could be called metabolic liver disease, he suggested.
“Although some patients treated with DMR lost a modest amount of weight, the liver enzyme levels were still reduced. The weight really didn’t budge, yet the liver enzymes were reduced, which was surprising. This forces the question whether obesity really causes type 2 diabetes, or is the cause of insulin resistance independent of weight and are there other contributing factors than obesity,” he said.
“This study shows the potential for a single-point upper GI intervention that can exert broad metabolic effects in glycemia and fatty liver disease,” he commented.
“Even though the duodenal mucosa regenerates over months 1-3, there appears to be a sustained effect of DMR. However, we need controlled studies that prevent medication adjustments that affect glycemic signals,” Dr Rajagopalan noted.