Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone found in the intestine, could prove to be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes, according to a study in The Lancet.
The journal reports that GLP-1 is associated with insulin production, and lower concentrations of the hormone have been observed in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Dr Jens Juul Holst and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark conducted a six-week pilot study of GLP-1 in 20 diabetic patients. Participants received either subcutaneous GLP-1 or placebo continuously throughout the study period. Blood glucose levels, pancreatic b-cell function, insulin sensitivity and appetite were evaluated at baseline, one and six weeks after treatment.
The researchers found that fasting and eight-hour blood glucose levels fell by 4.3 and 5.5 mmol/L respectively in the group receiving the hormone. A reduction in body weight of 1.9kg was observed by the end of the study period and appetite levels fell. In addition, b-cell function and insulin sensitivity improved.
According to Dr Holst, the improved insulin sensitivity, b-cell function, body weight and free-fatty-acid levels during treatment "could not have been predicted and probably reflect the profound improvement of metabolic regulation occurring during treatment".
Tests on animals seem to indicate that GLP-1 can stimulate b-cell growth, and the researchers suggest that this is likely to be the case in humans as well. "It is our hope that this new treatment, in addition to effectively correcting the metabolic disturbances of the disease, may actually help restore the underlying defective b-cell function," said Dr Holst.