Recent research has revealed that the pancreas is not alone in determining how much insulin is released. A newly discovered hormone which is found in the liver can promote the growth of more insulin cells in the Islets of Langerhans region of the pancreas.
Researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, identified the new hormone, betatrophin, by creating insulin resistance in mice. When the mice experienced insulin resistance they started the develop more of the insulin-secreting pancreatic β cells.
The researchers, led by Douglas Melton, then painstakingly sought out the reason for the new growth of cells. Eventually they singled out the new hormone in the liver.
This finding was followed by further experiments to test the results by injecting mice with betatrophin. The result was around 17 times more cells were grown than is normal. The same hormone is also found in the human liver.
The betatrophin hormone is only active in the pancreas. The slowing of the development of new Pancreatic β cells is the cause of type 2 diabetes. This new hormone could lead to a new treatment for diabetes.
Liver hormone offers hope for diabetes treatment by Chris Palmer, 25 April 2013. Nature.com. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12878