A naturally produced hormone that is produced at the same time as insulin appears to be involved in the cause of both main types of diabetes according to researchers.
The research team showed that when clumps of the hormone amylin formed in the pancreas, they have a toxic effect on the pancreas cells that produce insulin. Amylin is a hormone that is secreted, along with insulin, by the pancreas. Amylin is secreted as around 1% of the volume of insulin that is released.
Amylin is not usually a harmful hormone and supports insulin in the regulation of blood sugar levels. However, research has previously shown that when amylin forms clumps it damages the pancreases ability to produce insulin.
The research team, which included researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Auckland, studied amylin levels in two groups of mice. One of the groups mice were engineered to produce higher levels of amylin.
The study revealed that the mice with higher levels of amylin developed greater signs of insulin resistance and produced higher levels of insulin than the mice with lower levels of amylin. In addition, the mice with high levels of insulin soon lost their ability to produce sufficient insulin as the beta cells (the cells which produce insulin) were destroyed.
The researchers believe that amylin plays an important role in type 2 diabetes and also propose a role for amylin in the development of type 1 diabetes. They are confident enough in their findings to be planning trials within the next two years to involve human patients.
The findings represent an exciting avenue of research but more studies will be needed to assess how much relevance these findings have to real life causes and treatment of diabetes in humans.

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