HHMIHOWARD HUGHES MEDICAL INSTITUTE
APRIL 25, 2013
Scientists Make Insulin-ProducingCells Self-Replicate
Douglas A. Melton
Scientists have discovered a hormone that causes the body’sinsulin-producing factories, beta cells, to churn out more of themselves.Having enough insulin is critical to regulating the amount of sugar intheblood. The hormone, a protein that the researchers named betatrophin,boosts betacell division in mice 17-fold, without affecting the proliferation of othercelltypes. The discovery may pave the way for a new therapy for diabetes—inparticular type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by a gradual failureor lossof beta cells.
"There’s a real chance that this hormone couldbe used to treat diabetics."
- Douglas A. Melton
“There’s a real chance that this hormone could be used to treatdiabetics,”says study author Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) InvestigatorDouglas Melton, who is at Harvard University. His team’s results, basedonstudies in mice, were published online in the journal
on April 25,2013. The hope is that using betatrophin to stimulate production of beta cellsmayone day be an improvement over today’s standard therapies—anti-diabetesdrugs or multiple daily injections of insulin—which Melton says do notcontrol blood sugar as well as functional beta cells.Pancreatic beta cells divide sluggishly, and their slow turnover makesthem a