Regenerating Beta Cells with Betatrophin

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Throughout National Diabetes Month, we will be sharing developments into Joslin’s unique approach for a permanent cure for type 1 diabetes. Our mission is to prevent, treat and cure diabetes so that one day there will be a world free of diabetes and its complications.

Peng Yi, Ph.D., has joined the research staff of Joslin Diabetes Center, bringing with him an impressive background in research on the replication and regeneration of pancreatic beta cells that applies to the treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. He joins a talented team of researchers focused on treating and ultimately curing type 1 diabetes as an Assistant Investigator in the Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology Section.

People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin because their immune system destroys their pancreatic beta cells, causing them to become dependent on insulin injections. Replenishing these insulin-producing cells is the goal of many type 1 researchers and Dr. Yi may have found just the way to do this.

While working at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), Dr. Yi along with Doug Melton, Ph.D., co-director of the HSCI, Xander University Professor at Harvard University and co-chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, discovered the hormone betatrophin, which increases the production of new insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Dr. Yi and his team established an inducible insulin resistance mouse model, meaning that they were able to turn on and off the insulin resistance at will.

“Using this model, we discovered a new hormone called betatrophin that is released from the liver and fat, and we showed that the over-expression of betatrophin in the liver causes dramatic and specific pancreatic beta cell replication and beta cell mass expansion,” said Dr. Yi.

Dr. Yi believes that by utilizing Joslin’s resources and collaborating with notable members of the Joslin faculty, he will be able to further advance his research with betatrophin.  His primary goal is to develop a betatrophin drug, which if successful will serve as a treatment and part of a cure for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. To assemble this drug, Dr. Yi is continuing to collaborate with Dr. Melton’s lab at Harvard, Evotec, a German biotech firm, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company, which is the only company that the compound has been licensed to.

“There are two sides of the treatment or cure – you have to shut down the autoimmune response to the beta cells and expand the beta cell mass,” explained Dr. Yi. “I think betatrophin may be a promising way to expand the beta cells mass for people [with type 1 diabetes] and slow down the progression of diabetes before, or at the time of diagnosis.”

He continued, “type 2 diabetes is very similar – at the late stage of type 2 people have less beta insulin, so they have to inject insulin. But if you can find a way to sensitize tissues to insulin signaling, you still need to repopulate your beta cells mass.”

Dr. Yi hopes a betatrophin drug will capitalize on the “honeymoon stage” of type 1 diabetes, which can happen after a patient is diagnosed. For reasons unknown, some patients experience a leveling of blood glucose numbers coupled with reduced insulin requirements. But this stage does not last.

“If you can diagnosis the patients in the early stages of diabetes, when their beta cells are not destroyed completely, then you maybe can use the betatrophin to prolong or postpone the development of type 1 diabetes, and the same case is with type 2 diabetes,” explained Dr. Yi.

Aside from focusing on the development of a betatrophin drug, Dr. Yi’s new lab is also concentrating on the mechanisms of how betatrophin works. His team wants to know how and why betatrophin shows up in the body, and if it binds to other proteins to do its job or if it works alone.

Specifically, Dr. Yi and his lab are focusing on why and how betatrophin stimulates beta cell proliferation, and they are particularly interested in identifying the responsible receptor, which is integral for large screen drug screenings for a betatrophin drug.

Dr. Yi’s lab hopes to recruit Joslin patients for a clinical trial, which would help Dr. Yi and his team better understand how betatrophin behaves in humans as compared to how it behaves in mice. They are also examining betatrophin’s potential as a diagnosis marker to evaluate the particular risk an individual has for developing type 2 diabetes. This will be particularly helpful for people who develop diabetes when they are only slightly overweight due to their genetic predisposition.

With all of these projects underway, Dr. Yi is excited about his research and the opportunity to work within the Joslin community.

“Joslin is the best place to study diabetes [because] we are surrounded with all these well-known diabetes researchers,” said Dr. Yi. “But this is just the beginning, we have huge hopes for [betatrophin research], we are not done yet.”

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19 Responses to Regenerating Beta Cells with Betatrophin

  1. Gavin Mbangula says:

    Thanks to have people and Professionals and researchers like Dr Yi- Please keep on doing the good job ,to help us sufferers of this deadly decease like diabetics ,its pain is unique to other pains and you can feel its going to kill you

  2. Rhonda Neufeld says:

    My son was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 25. He is a firefighter and very physically fit. Very hopeful for a cure for this disease. Appreciate so much all the research and endless hours trying to find a cure.

  3. Kristina Haines says:

    This is very encouraging indeed. My son is 17 years old, was diagnosed 7 months ago and after 3 months on insulin he has not required any. I firmly believe the honeymoon period is the time where the beta cells can regenerate. We think that may be going on with our son, he started on some supplements one week after diagnosis- Vit D, Niacinamide (B3) and Green Tea Extract (EgCG) and followed a moderate carb intake (not overly low- limited juices, candy, etc). He is doing wonderful and we only hope that his Beta Cells are doing its job. CPeptide levels rose after 4 months of diagnosis and are going to be checked again in the next few weeks.

  4. Gloria tapia says:

    Am type 2 diabetes since 2007 I will be willing to take your test trail for your new drug betatrophin. My mother’s entire family with only 2 remaining have died of this disease. I would like to be one of many to stop this killer disease.

    • Gloria tapia says:

      I have been a diabetic since 2007 and all my mother’s family have and passed away due to this deadly disease. I would be willing to help you in testing your new drug. So it doesn’t pass on to my kids.

  5. Gloria tapia says:

    Your up date report on betatrophin sounds so promising. Am ready to help put a stop to this deadly disease. I will be willing to get on board with the trail drug testing am type 2 since 2007.

  6. Gloria tapia says:

    Am gamed for any trial testing for the drug on betatrophine

  7. Dr.Li and Dr Doug Melton,
    The doctors community is with you and your research as it is going to wipe out this crippling disease and save millions of patients . Don’t stop keep going we are with you.

  8. marianne fu plooy says:

    My son of 3 has bern diagnosed with type one diabetes and its fpr us as parents devastating to hear people talking about it be incurable especially after we had his stem cells stored. Not that I know knew any of this before 4 days ago . Was hoping it could some how help . I would love to know more about your research and betarophin.

  9. Melesse says:

    Question: What is your reaction to a 2014 publication concluding that unlike mice, elevated betatrophin does not increase beta cell proliferation in humans? Please visit:

  10. Angele says:

    According to Dr Mercola….
    recent research shows that chronic stress stimulates your body to produce betatrophin — a protein that blocks an enzyme that breaks down body fat.

  11. Samsudeen Adejare says:

    This is a giant step towards right direction,in finding total cure to both type 1 & 2 d. However, I want to suggest that it’s possible that a plant chemical that is analog to betatrophin which is found in west africa that perform same function as betatrophin.
    Extend your research to plants especially in west africa sub-region. You underestimate the figure of affected people. Because unreported cases are more than reported ones.

  12. abdou says:

    there is no link between betatrophin and regenretion of beta cells .
    please read this post :

  13. David christensen says:

    after reading all this I admire this mans research and attempt to find a possible cure for this devastating disease, but I can’t help to remember how many times I heard the news report about a new cure, just to find out latter some big drug company bought the rights to that cure for an undisclosed amount of money, and then sealed it away in there vault, think about it people drug company’s have no desire to find a cure, just a desire to profit from there investment in sustaining the manufacturing of products that keep us alive, think of the billions of dollars there is to lose if a cure were to hit the market, no folks make no joke about it, a cure for diabetes will never be found for this generation or any other future generation, we are the new bitches in the slave cell of the drug pirates,

  14. Beth Cohsul says:

    Good Morning,
    My father is diabetic and begins to suffer amputations. How do I buy this medicine here in Brazil ????
    Thank you

    Bete Cohsul

  15. milind says:

    I am also willing as my diabetis is caused due to consumption of steteoids

  16. Somi naidu Dadi says:

    Sir, I have been suffering from type 2 diabetes for about 30yrs . I felt great joy on hearing about regeneration of beta cells with the drug Betatrophin . I humbly request to expedite the experiment to help crores of diabetic patients. in the world.

  17. Dr. Craig Richards says:

    I have T2 diabetes. I have found that medical grade Berberine 1200 mg once per day reduced my morning fasting BS to 117 from 180. Does anyone have research on long term effects of Bernadine?

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