A hormone, called betatrophin, that may significantly improve type 2 diabetes treatment has been discovered by scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), according to a report published in Cell.

type 1 diabetesdiabetes


this breakthrough could mean that type 2 diabetes patients may have a natural regulation of insulin

“If this could be used in people. It could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month, or in the best case maybe even once a year.”

Type 2 diabetesobesity

the annual costs for pre-diabetes, diabetes treatment and complications in the USA at $218 billion

“Our idea here is relatively simple. We would provide this hormone, the type 2 diabetic will make more of their own insulin-producing cells, and this will slow down, if not stop, the progression of their diabetes. I’ve never seen any treatment that causes such an enormous leap in beta cell replication.”

betarophin may well be in human clinical trials within the next three to five years

stem cells

“I would like to tell you this discovery came from deep thinking and we knew we would find this, but it was more a bit of luck. We were just wondering what happens when an animal doesn’t have enough insulin. We were lucky to find this new gene that had largely gone unnoticed before.

Another hint came from studying something that people know about but don’t think much about, which is: What happens during pregnancy? When a woman gets pregnant, her carbohydrate load, her call for insulin, can increase an enormous amount because of the weight and nutrition needs of the fetus. During pregnancy, there are more beta cells needed, and it turns out that this hormone goes up during pregnancy. We looked in pregnant mice and found that when the animal becomes pregnant this hormone is turned on to make more beta cells.”

“I was just sitting there at the microscope looking at all these replicating beta cells, and I could barely believe my eyes”

“I remember this very well. It’s a black-and-white picture where you’re looking at a section, like a section through a sausage, of the whole pancreas. When you normally look at a black-and-white picture of that, it’s very hard to tell where the beta cells are, the insulin cells.

But in this test, any cell that was dividing would shine up bright and white, like a sparkle. He showed me this picture where the whole pancreas is largely black, but then there were these clusters, like stars of these white dots, which turned out to be all over the islets, the place where the beta cell sits. I still keep that black-and-white picture. We have much fancier color ones, but I like the black-and-white picture, because it’s one of those moments when you know something interesting has happened. This is not by accident. I’ve never seen any treatment that causes such an enormous leap … in beta cell replication.”