Scientists in America have discovered a hormone in the liver that could slow or even halt the progression of type 2 diabetes by encouraging the production of natural insulin.
The researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute came across the hormone, called betatrophi, while searching for ways to mimic the disease in mice. They found that this particular liver gene promotes the growth of insulin-producing beta cells.
After engineering normal healthy mice to produce more betatrophin in their livers, the scientists found beta cell production in the betatrophin pancreas increased by up to 30 times the normal rate.
The scientists say the next step is to examine whether these extra beta cells can produce enough insulin to halt and possibly reverse type 2 diabetes in mice.
If results are encouraging, betatrophin could be tested in humans within 2-3 years and this could potentially lead to a new injectable treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes.
The team, led by Douglas Melto, a co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and his postdoctoral fellow Peng Yi, believe betatrophin could also be used to help treat type 1 diabetes.
They explain that the hormone might work during the so-called honeymoon phase, a short period of time following diabetes diagnosis when beta cell function is still sufficient to keep control blood glucose.

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