Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Natural Protein Analog May Fix Insulin-Making Cells Isolated From the Human Pancreas


For decades, doctors have known that patients who develop higher than normal blood sugar eventually require medication and ultimately need to take insulin, having progressed to what is known as Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes. So when a natural protein analog known as GLP-1 was found to lower blood sugar levels in laboratory mice, researchers began investigating its effectiveness in diabetes patients in clinical trials. Once again, they found that GLP-1 lowered blood sugar and increased insulin production in patients with Type 2 diabetes. But just how GLP-1 pushes cells to produce more insulin has only been partially understood.

Now, laboratory research conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has shown that GLP-1 not only stimulates the insulin-making capacity of islet cells in the pancreas, but that the compound actually makes new insulin, increases the growth of new islet cells and prevents overworked islets from dying prematurely. The study, reported in the December issue of the journal, Endocrinology, (available on-line at is the first lab study to apply GLP-1 directly to freshly isolated human islet cells and suggests that GLP-1 may be useful to delay or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

"Our study shows that GLP-1 is the first compound to actually generate new insulin," said Riccardo Perfetti, M.D., Ph.D., and Director of the outpatient Diabetes Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "In other words, it doesn’t just deplete the islet cell by making it work harder to produce more insulin, but it actually fixes the cell’s engine."

Insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose levels, is made by islet cells in the pancreas. But when the islet cells begin to fail, not enough insulin is produced, causing blood sugar levels to get too high. This in turn, causes the islet cells to work harder to produce more insulin, ultimately stressing the cells and causing them to die.

But earlier research had shown that GLP-1 increased insulin production and slowed the rate that islet cells died in laboratory mice, which prompted the researchers at Cedars-Sinai to find out whether GLP-1 could actually preserve the function and viability of actual human islets. They found that GLP-1 worked by delaying damage to the human islets’ structure and that the life-span of the cells were significantly increased.

"We found that the islet cells were more efficient when treated with GLP-1, because it prompted them to make insulin only when it was needed," said Dr. Perfetti.

In the study, two groups of islets were isolated from the human pancreas and cultured in the laboratory for five days. One group was treated with GLP-1 every 12 hours, while the other group served as a control and was not treated with GLP-1. Glucose was added to the islet cultures at the end of the first, third and fifth day of the study and a test was performed to measure the amount of insulin secreted by the cells.

During the five days that the cells were studied, the investigators found that the islets in both groups maintained their shape and structural integrity for one day. However, a progressive loss to the structure of the cell and the numbers of actual cells was observed among islets not treated with GLP-1, with the number of viable cells reduced by 45 percent by day five of the study. Alternatively, the islets treated with GLP-1, were able to maintain their shape and structural integrity for a longer period of time, with only a 15 percent reduction in viable cells by the end of day five.

"This shows that the addition of GLP-1 had a significant effect on cell viability and inhibited the structural deterioration that is characteristic of cells that are dying," said Dr. Perfetti.

To find out whether GLP-1 was effective to slow down the rate that the islet cells died, the investigators used a specialized staining technique to see how many viable cells remained by day five - or the last day of the study. They found that time was a major factor in both the treated and untreated islets, but that GLP-1 treated cells lived longer, with about 15.5 percent of the untreated cells having died at day 3 as compared to 6.1 percent in the GLP-1 treated cell cultures. On day five of the study, 18.9% of the untreated cells had died, while cell death occurred in only 8.9% of the GLP-1 treated cells.

In addition, when the investigators added glucose to the islet cell cultures to determine whether GLP-1 would stimulate the cells to secrete insulin, they found that GLP-1 treated cells were more sensitive to glucose and secreted more insulin than the untreated islet cells.

"All together, this study shows that GLP-1’s ability to prevent islet cells from dying could possibly be used to prevent Type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Perfetti.

This study was sponsored by the Max Factor Family Foundation.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is one of the largest non-profit academic medical centers in the Western United States. For the fifth straight two-year period, Cedars-Sinai has been named Southern California’s gold standard in health care in an independent survey. Cedars-Sinai is internationally renowned for its diagnostic and treatment capabilities and its broad spectrum of programs and services, as well as breakthrough in biomedical research and superlative medical education. Named one of the 100 "Most Wired" hospitals in health care in 2001, the Medical Center ranks among the top 10 non-university hospitals in the nation for its research activities.

Sandy Van | Van Communications
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>