Imagine having the power to switch on your beta cells at will, to start producing insulin when required. Seem far-fetched? Not really. A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered something totally miraculous. They’ve actually found a hormone produced by the liver and fat cells, that signals the body to make more beta cells; it’s called betatrophin.
Confused with the whole medical jargon? Let me break it down for you. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells, which are the active insulin producing cells in the pancreas. On the other hand, in type 2 diabetes, the body resists the action of insulin, forcing the beta cells to produce more and more, eventually resulting in their destruction. Dr. Melton and his group discovered that the pancreas could make new beta cells from the old ones. There was only one logical conclusion that could be drawn from this. There had to be some chemical in the body that could signal the beta cells to divide. They discovered this hormone in mice and found that it travelled through the body, to the pancreas, signaling the beta cells to divide. In mice with diabetes, it helped control the level of sugar.
This entire research has taken the diabetes community by storm. Imagine a world where diabetes is no longer an issue at all. Just pop a pill and everything’s taken care of. Might seem too good to be true, but that’s entirely possible given the magnitude of the discovery made by the Harvard team. We’re still a long way from discovering how the human body responds to the hormone and of course from eventually using betatrophin as a drug. However, the good thing is that scientists are beginning to understand diabetes better and are getting closer and closer to a complete cure of the condition.