Researchers have discovered a new insulin-regulating hormone in flies, potentially opening up new treatments for diabetes.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, is the first to confirm the existence of limostati, a hormone that keeps insulin levels low after a period of fasting or starvation. By making sure that nutrients stay in the blood – rather than being transported to fat cells – limostatin contributes to the rebuilding of starving tissues.
Although the hormone was first identified in fruit flies, the researchers found something similar in humans.
How was the study conducted?
The researchers starved a group of fruit flies for 24 hours, and observed which genes were the most prominent during the time period. One of them, limostati, resembled insulin deficiency in the flies.
The researchers then genetically engineered flies that could not produced any limostati, and discovered that they had too much insulin circulating in their bodies. Consequently, the flies had lower levels of sugar and a higher number of fat cells than they should have.
The researchers then discovered that limostatin is similar to a human protein known as Neuromedin U, which controls blood pressure, appetite, and hormone functions. It was suspected that, based on its similarly to limostati, which controls insulin levels, Neuromedin U might also have an effect on insulin regulation.
It was discovered that Neuromedin U is located on insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. In addition, it prevented the beta cells from secreting extra insulin when blood glucose levels became too high.
Could the findings affect diabetes treatment in the future?
The research could have a huge impact on the development of diabetes treatment in the future.
Seung Kim, professor of developmental biology, said: “Starvation or famine is an ancient, ever-present spectre faced by all living organisms. The ways to deal with it metabolically are likely to be ancient and conserved. This research clearly connects the dots between flies and humans, and identifies a potential way to regulate insulin output in humans.”
Domenico Accili, MD, director of the Columbia University Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Centre, explained: “This work has critical ramifications for our understanding of metabolism, and has the potential to transform our approach to treating diseases like diabetes.
“The discovery of limostati, a new hormone that can act to decrease insulin release, is an important advance… [that] may inform new efforts to find drugs that combat diabetes in humans.”
The study was published in Cell Metabolism.

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