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Baboon Studies Provide Potential Understanding Of Beta Cell Changes In Type 2 Diabetes

Posted Jul 22 2009 11:22pm
The islets of Langerhans, scattered throughout the pancreas, generate the hormones (insulin, glucagon and somatostatin) that participate in maintaining blood sugar levels (and other functions). A new study, out of the University of Texas Health Science Center (in San Antonio) suggests that protein deposits in the islets increase in the presence of even slight elevations of blood sugar.

The research was completed in baboons, animals that develop Type 2 diabetes in much the same way as humans.

The deposits of a protein hormone, called Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP), somehow shift the microenvironment of the islets of Langerhans, the authors noted, making it toxic to cells that produce insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels. At the same time, the microenvironment promotes the replication of cells that produce a second hormone, glucagon, which raises blood glucose levels. The cells that produce insulin are called beta cells; the cells that produce glucagon are called alpha cells.

This may help explain why glucagon levels are generally increased in Type 2 diabetics. Remember, glucagon is the hormone that tends to raise blood sugar.

“Finally we have a very plausible explanation of the increased glucagon levels.”

The full Science Daily article is

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