Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4) inhibitors are a new pharmacological class of drugs for treating Type 2 diabetes. They improve the capacity of the organism to control glycemia by increasing the levels of active incretins. Their mechanism of action is thus radically different from those of other anti-diabetic drugs currently available. DDP-4 inhibitors use a physiological mechanism to control hyperglycemia, by stimulating the secretion of insulin from beta-cells, decreasing the secretion of glucagon from pancreatic alpha-cells, and at the same time reducing the production of glucose by the liver. DDP-4 inhibitors have shown significant efficacy in maintaining reduced levels of glycosylated hemoglobin for up to 1 year. In vitro and animal studies have shown that they can inhibit apoptosis of beta-cells and favor their regeneration and differentiation. The oral DPP-4 inhibitors vildagliptin, sitagliptin, and saxagliptin are efficacious both alone and in association with other oral anti-diabetic agents and may be administered in a single daily dose. Lastly, they have substantial advantages with respect to other anti-diabetic drugs, since they involve a low risk of hypoglycemia and do not affect body weight.
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