Quite by accident, scientists at Harvard have discovered a new hormone that could significantly help in the control of diabetes. This hormone, called betatrophin, was discovered in mice during research of a compound that re-creates what happens in the body when diabetes is introduced. When the mice in the project were “given diabetes,” the hormone betatrophin kicked in and caused the production of more insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Young mice given the hormone saw an increase in beta cell production of up to 17 times. However, the hormone proves less effective in older mice, meaning that its use in older people with type 2 diabetes may not be useful.
It’s too early to say since human testing is way off in the future. Extensive animal testing must be conducted in order to ensure this hormone’s safety before human testing can begin. Beta cell expert Peter Butler of the University of California, Los Angeles, warns that “"a variety of compounds have earlier been identified that drive beta cell growth in young mice, but these have then not had the same effect on beta cells in people.”
The hope is that, if testing proves out, people with diabetes could be given an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month instead of numerous daily injections of insulin. It won’t happen soon, but I find it encouraging that researchers are still finding possible ways to make controlling diabetes easier for all of us.