If this could be used in people, it could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month, or in the best case maybe even once a year.
A newly revealed natural hormone that dramatically increases replication of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells over the normal rate could have important implications for diabetics.
Harvard professor Doug Melton and postdoctoral fellow Peng Yi found that when DNA coding for the hormone betatrophin was given to mice with insulin resistance, their liver and fat cells produced and secreted the hormone, causing beta cell numbers to increase. The researchers have identified the human gene for the hormone as well.
“If this could be used in people,” says Melton, “it could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month, or in the best case maybe even once a year.”
More than 371 million people worldwide have diabetes and the disease has increased more than 700 percent in the last 50 years. Between 90 percent and 95 percent of diabetes patients worldwide have type 2 diabetes, the population that would most benefit from this type of treatment. Clinical trials to test use of the hormone could begin within three to five years.
The work, detailed in a new article in the journal Cell, is the product of the academic-industry partnership CureBeta. The name of the CureBeta initiative is also the goal: to cure the pancreatic beta cells that are responsible for secreting insulin. In type 2 diabetes, these cells are diminished either in number or function, over time, and in type 1 diabetes, these cells are destroyed by the body’s own immune system.
CureBeta was formed in 2011 when Evotec signed a collaborative agreement with Harvard’s Melton and Yi, allowing the company to license the work and use their own scientists to rapidly move the research towards the clinic. In 2012 the compound was sub-licensed to CureBeta partner Janssen Pharmaceuticals to leverage the pharma company’s development expertise and resources.
“We’ve discovered a new hormone that does this important, interesting thing: robust, rapid expansion of beta cells,” says Melton. “It boosts beta cell replication like nothing anyone’s ever seen.”
May 03, 2013