Hormone may lead to improved diabetes treatments

A team of researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center has discovered a type of hormone that may prevent the death of insulin-producing beta cells. They believe the findings could lead to improved treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that the hormone adiponectin can neutralize the effects of a certain type of fat cell that is known to damage and eventually kill the beta cells of the pancreas. The hormone not only prevents fats from killing beta cells, but it also converts lipids into a substance that protects the cells from future harm.

Reporting in the journal Nature Medicine, the team said that their findings could be useful in the development of new medications that prevent the death of beta cells. Low insulin levels is one of the most main problems associated with diabetes. It can cause dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar, which may lead to damage throughout the body.

"Adiponectin essentially provides a makeover of this ugly cousin," said Dr. Philipp Scherer, who led the investigation. "We were able to show using these models of apoptosis in the beta cell that we can protect those cells from cell death with adiponectin."