Researchers are investigating how blocking the hormone glucagon could improve control of type 1 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, glucagon works with insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Glucagon raises blood sugar and insulin lowers it.
This new study, published in eLife, reports that using insulin therapy and blocking glucagon as a combined treatment could provide a more effective and safer way for some people to maintain good blood glucose levels.
The researchers noted that in previous studies, mice that lacked glucagon did not develop diabetes following the surgical removal of insulin-producing beta cells.
Lead author Pedro Herrera, from the University of Geneva, explained: “Inhibiting the hormone glucagon has recently been explored as an alternative or supplement to insulin injectio, but it has limitations.
“Our research reveals why: the body needs to have some residual insulin production in order for a treatment blocking glucagon to work.”
In this new study, the scientists used mice that were chemically induced to develop a form of type 1 diabetes. They were also modified to lack glucagon receptors. This meant that the mice could produce glucagon, but because they lacked the receptors, the glucagon would not have any effect.
The researchers found that blocking the effect of glucagon had success, but only when the mice were able to still produce a small amount of insulin.
“Collectively, these results indicate that glucagon antagonism could i) be a useful adjuvant therapy in diabetes only when residual insulin action persists, and ii) help devising future beta-cell regeneration therapies relying upon alpha cell reprogramming,” the researchers concluded.

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