The End of Insulin

Insulin Image

A new hormone can create cells to produce Insulin,

a long time coming as diabetics everywhere are rejoicing. Scientists stumbled onto a hormone that can help people with Type-2 diabetes naturally make the insulin they lack, without drugs or needles. This hormone is called betatrophin. It was discovered when a co-director of stem cell research were searching for a way to mimic Type-2 diabetes in animals.

In humans, the insulin making cells in the pancreas gradually lose their ability to sense and respond to glucose levels in the blood. However when the mice were given a compound by scientists designed to shut down insulin production, they were surprised to find that the animal’s pancreases responded by popping out more cells that produce the betatrophin hormone.



The agent responsible for this repopulation, betatrophin. Over the course of several weeks the levels of the hormone shot up and the pancreas began pumping out insulin making beta cells at 30 times their normal rate.

The scientists are now measuring how long lasting betatrophin effects are and are preparing to soon investigate the hormone in human trials. This finding is an exciting breakthrough in diabetes research, which for many years was primarily focused on finding ways to supplement insulin levels with drugs and injections vs. searching for ways to eliminate the disease altogether.

Experts believed that once beta cells were compromised, they could not be made to regenerate. These same experts also were under the impression that only a subset of these cells could make insulin, so after diabetes set in, there were not enough of theses cells left to produce the hormone.

In 2007 it was proven that all cells in the pancreas are capable for producing insulin. The desire of these scientists to better understand this process is what led to the discovery of betatrophin. However they would have never guessed that the answer to treating diabetes lies in such a simple solution.

The scientist all focused on complex ways of producing and manipulating stem cells to make more beta cells that churn out insulin. However if betatrophin can do that by itself in human trials, giving patients the hormone could in fact not only help them reduce the need for insulin but also eliminate their need for medications and insulin shots all together.

Even more interesting is finding ways to stop new beta cells from being destroyed by the immune system as it happens with Type-1 diabetes, betatrophin could possibly help those patients as well. Even if betatrophin just minimizes the use or need for insulin producing medications it could be several years before human trials are ready to begin.

Overview on other possible hopefuls include fat blockers. Fat buildup in muscles can hamper cells’ ability to respond to insulin. However a group of researchers showed that blocking fat with a protein called VEGF-B could help prevent Type-2 diabetes. In addition, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are researching an intestinal enzyme that could help cells break down sugar which would also be a giant leap for patients dealing with Type-2 diabetes.

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