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Using Testosterone as Diabetes Treatment?

Study shows effect low levels of the hormone have on blood glucose.

Researchers at Tulane University have identified the role testosterone plays in blood glucose regulation, which they say could lead to new treatments for men with low testosterone due age or prostate cancer treatment.

Men with low levels are more likely to develop diabetes – suggesting hormone therapy could provide the answer to stop the disease. The study found testosterone helps men regulate blood glucose by triggering chemicals in cells within the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin.

For the study, researchers used mice bred with pancreatic beta cells lacking a receptor for testosterone, feeding them a diet high in fat and sugar and tested their body’s response to it. Mice without receptors all secreted less insulin and developed glucose intolerance conditions similar to diabetes.

The researchers then tested the effects of testosterone and glucose on human islet cells treated with a drug to inhibit the function of receptors, showing the same decreased insulin production exhibited in the mice.

After observing the effect in human cells, researchers cultured mouse and human cells to observe the effects of testosterone on insulin production that could be blocked by glucagon-like peptide-1 — suggesting testosterone amplifies the effects of GLP-1, often used to treat diabetes.

“Our study shows that testosterone is an anti-diabetic hormone in men,” study author Dr. Franck Mauvais-Jarvis said. “If we can modulate its action without side effects, it is a therapeutic avenue for type 2 diabetes.

Practice Pearls:

  • •Male β cell ARKO mice exhibit decreased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS)
  • •Testosterone enhances GSIS from cultured male mouse and human β cells via AR
  • •The AR is extranuclear in β cells and enhances GSIS in a cAMP-dependent manner
  • •The activated AR amplifies the insulinotropic effect of glucagon-like peptide-1

Published in the journal Cell Metabolism, March 2016