November 18, 2015

Fighting type 2 diabetes with FGF1

The growth factor FGF1 induces the growth of new insulin-producing beta cells and may help treat type 2 diabetes.

by Courtney Bricker-Anthony

Overnutrition and obesity contribute to insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease characterized by high blood glucose. Pancreatic beta cells produce the hormone insulin that maintains normal blood glucose levels.

When existing beta cells are unable to produce enough insulin to meet demand, blood glucose can skyrocket. One of the body’s strategies for meeting increased insulin demand is the induction of more beta cells. The mechanisms underlying this process are unknown.

In the journal Diabetes, Wenbiao Chen, Ph.D., and colleagues discovered one mechanism by which new beta cells form in response to overnutrition. A small molecule screen implicated the growth factor FGF1.

Using genetics and pharmacology, the researchers demonstrated that FGF1 is required for new beta cells to form in response to overnutrition. These findings demonstrate that FGF1 is the signal for induction of beta cells in overnutrition. Enhancing FGF1 signaling may enhance the body’s ability to fight type 2 diabetes.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DK088686) and from the American Diabetes Association.

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