Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found protective, anti-diabetic functions for a hormone that, like insulin, is produced by the islet cells of the pancreas. new hormone was found to stimulate insulin secretion from rat and human islet cells and protect islet cells in the presence of toxic, cell-killing factors used in the study.
The findings provide insight into the health and survival of beta cells, a type of islet cell that produces insulin to regulate sugar levels. The discovery could open pathways for further research toward prevention and treatments for type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The researchers gave the hormone, TLQP-21 to Zucker Diabetic Fatty rats, which have a genetic propensity to develop type 2 diabetes. They saw a significant improvement in insulin and glucose (sugar) levels and less beta cell death in the treated animals.
“We think this finding is important because it is the first demonstration that TLQP-21 prevents deterioration of the beta cells and stimulates insulin secretion in the presence of glucose,” said senior author Christopher B. Newgard, Ph.D., director of the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, and the W. David and Sarah W. Stedman Distinguished Professor. “Because diabetes starts to take hold when the number of beta cells dwindles and insulin production drops, finding the best way to produce more of this protective hormone could be valuable.”
Although the researchers have so far only tested TLQP-21 in models of type 2 diabetes, they plan to test the hormone in type 1 in future studies.
Both types of diabetes are characterized by a loss of functional beta cell mass. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease characterized by selective and progressive loss of functional insulin-producing beta cells and is more severe. Type 2 is a disease characterized by beta cell dysfunction as well as peripheral insulin resistance. Most people with type 2 eventually become insulin-dependent.
“These exciting findings provide novel insight into how beta cell health and survival may be regulated in the body,” said Patricia Kilian, Ph.D., director of the beta cell regeneration program at JDRF. “We are looking forward to studies that will further test how this novel hormone affects beta cell function in T1D (type 1 diabetes) models.”
TLQP-21 is similar in some of its functions to another naturally occurring hormone produced in the digestive tract, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Through different mechanisms, both hormones protect and promote insulin secretion. GLP-1 or drugs that stabilize it are widely used to treat type 2 diabetes, but with some side effects, including increased heart rate and reduced stomach emptying; the effect on intestinal function has caused some people to stop the therapy.
The next step is to find a small molecule that could stimulate the islet cells to produce more of the TLQP-21 hormone, or to develop more potent or stable versions of injected hormone. Research toward a longer-acting drug will help accelerate its eventual testing in type 1 diabetes, said Newgard, who is also a professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.
Health-e-Solutions comment: The endocrine system continues to reveal new and amazing intricacies that demonstrate the complexity of the human body. The research is geared toward finding a drug to stimulate the secretion of this new-found hormone, but we would prefer they search for natural methods to balance hormones. The experience with GLP-1 and virtually every other hormone should teach us that it is best to find natural healing methods before resorting to man-made molecules and drugs, or even unnatural doses of natural molecules.