Researchers may have found a new helpmate in their search for a cure to diabetes. A new study in the journal Cell, published online on Thursday, has identified a particular hormone that appears to grow the very cells that are destroyed by the disease.
The hormone, which the scientists working on the study have dubbed betatrophin, encourages the pancreas to grow new beta cells. Beta cells are our body's primary manufacturers of insulin.
Here is some of the key information that emerged on Thursday regarding this new study into the effect of hormones on diabetes.
* People with diabetes lack the ability to make enough insulin, which helps the body process sugar. Without it, a person can eventually suffer from organ damage, kidney failure, and blindness, and can even lose a limb to the disease.
* As noted by Bloomberg News, this study was conducted in mice. In the mouse study, betatrophin increased the production of beta cells by more than 33 times.
* Douglas Melton, who is the co-director of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, told Bloomberg and other media outlets on Thursday that humans have a hormone that is almost identical to the mouse version of betatrophin, and that preliminary examination appears to indicate that it performs the same function in the human body that it does in mice.
* Harvard has applied to be able to patent betatrophin, and major drug companies around the world are already taking notice of the work being done by Melton and his colleagues.
* Melton told USA Today that he and his fellow researchers next want to create an injectable form of the hormone and use it to treat diabetic mice.
* Some in the scientific community are reserving judgement on the significance of Melton's team's findings until research is done with humans. Dr. Peter Butler, who researches diabetes at the University of California-Los Angeles, told USA Today on Thursday that research needs to be presented that shows that manipulating betatrophin in the human body will cause the pancreas to begin producing beta cells as it does in mice.
* Other researchers familiar with the work insist that Melton's findings may lead to new avenues of research and perhaps even new treatments for the disease. Mary-Elizabeth Patti of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston told NPR that she was certain that "this will stimulate a lot of work to look at the effects of this protein and rapidly investigate" its full potential.
* Betatrophin, if proven as an effective treatment, would be most effective for use in patients with Type 2 diabetes, according to Melton, due to differences between the Type 2 and Type 1 variations of the disease. Therapies for Type 1 diabetes may also be possible, he noted, but they would require different avenues of research into betatrophin.Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- Douglas Melton