Hormone could offer new diabetes treatments

Fri, 13 Apr 2012
Recent laboratory research on suppressing the hormone glucagon has found that it could help to reduce blood sugar levels, cholesterol and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Based on these early findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, any treatment that took advantage of glucagon suppression could target the hormone rather than insulin, said researchers. It was also revealed that such therapy could reduce and prevent fatty deposits from reaching in the liver. Lead author of the study, Ira Tabas, said "A new target for the adverse effects of glucagon on diabetes has been identified, and with treatment we got rid of all the bad stuff, but didn't cause side effects."

Glucagon works to protect both the body and brain from low levels of blood sugar during times of fasting, such as overnight, and is produced by pancreatic alpha cells. When the cells notice blood sugar or insulin levels going down, they secrete glucagon so that the liver produces glucose for the brain and body. Although the hormone is usually only produced when the body is starved of food, in people with type 2 diabetes who insulin resistant, their liver signals that it needs glucagon and releases more sugar.

As Vivian Fonseca, from the American Diabetes Association, said "when you eat a meal and your sugar goes up, glucagon and glucose should switch off, but that doesn't happen in type 2 diabetes." She added "This is an interesting and exciting scientific finding on how glucagon works, and it provides a new treatment target. But, it's in the very early stages of research."
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