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Newly Discovered Hormone Increases Beta Cell Proliferation

Betatrophin may improve beta cell proliferation and cell size…. 

In a mouse model, researchers from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute aimed to identify secreted signals that control beta cell proliferation. During the study, the mice were administered an insulin receptor antagonist, known as S961, which blocks insulin signaling and induces glucose intolerance, and results in an increase in beta cell proliferation. Because there was no effect when S961 was administered directly to the mouse beta cells, researchers analyzed gene expression after administration to the liver tissues, white fat and skeletal muscle. This analysis revealed that betatrophin is upregulated in the liver and that the beta cell proliferation rate increased an average 17-fold in the mice, with some individual mice having replication rates as high as 33-fold.

Although only studied in mice, betatrophin has been cloned and shown to exist in humans. The researchers agreed there still needs to be more studies done before this treatment option could be available for patients, but they believe human clinical trials could begin in three to five years. If the trials in humans are successful and show the effectiveness of using betatrophin to allow type 2 diabetic patients to produce more of their own beta cells, these patients could possibly stop taking insulin injections multiple times a day and instead take an injection of betatrophin once a week, month or, at best, year.

Practice Pearls:
  • New hormone, betatrophin, expressed in the liver increases beta cell proliferation and cell size only when needed.
  • Betatrophin may decrease the amount or need for insulin.
  • Trials in humans may be seen sooner than expected.

Cell, April 2013