Type 1 Diabetes: Is Glucagon the Key?

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro February 09, 2011
  • The pancreas is a very complex organ composed of both exocrine cells (glands with ducts) needed for digestive purposes and endocrine cells (ductless glands) that secrete hormones involved in blood glucose homeostasis and metabolism. The islets of Langerhans (or Beta cell islets) produce insulin that ...

6 Comments
  • Gretchen Becker
    Health Guide
    Feb. 10, 2011

    I agree with you that insulin does more than control BG levels and I suspect completely blocking glucagon and not taking insulin would probably have deleterious results. However, slightly inhibiting glucagon would be a good idea. I've wondered for a long time why no one was doing this, after I read Unger's chapter on glucagon in Ellenberg and Rifkin's book...

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    I agree with you that insulin does more than control BG levels and I suspect completely blocking glucagon and not taking insulin would probably have deleterious results. However, slightly inhibiting glucagon would be a good idea. I've wondered for a long time why no one was doing this, after I read Unger's chapter on glucagon in Ellenberg and Rifkin's book on diabetes.

     

    Interestingly, Unger has been working on glucagon since the late 1960s (it's difficult to know which early studies are relevant because the early ones don't have abstracts in PubMed) and in the early 1970s published an article similar to the one that is getting banner headlines today. This idea is not new.

     

    Why did it take them 30 years to come up with this new study?

     

    People who have lost much of their pancreas (meaning both alpha and beta cells) can be kept alive but have a very "brittle" diabetes and certainly need insulin. Animals that have had their entire pancreas removed still require insulin (as well as digestive enzymes).

     

    I think this recent research is interesting but it has been exaggerated by the aggressive publicity department of the researchers' institution.

     

     

    • Dr. Fran Cogen
      Health Pro
      Feb. 10, 2011

      Gretchen: I could not agree with you more! The publicity has been enormous sounding this research. I find it very interesting, however, in terms of the secrets yet to be discovered in regard to pancreatic physiology related to those "ductless glands."

    • Gretchen Becker
      Health Guide
      Feb. 10, 2011

      Yes. I think we know less than we don't know. And I think it's cruel to promise a simple cure when that's not likely to work, at least not without a lot of refinement. When people with type 1 keep being promised cures that don't materialize, they may lose hope.

    • frankenduf
      Feb. 11, 2011

      my guess is that it's marginally more dangerous to block glucagon than inject insulin, due to effects of marginal hypoglycemia on brain function- it may perhaps be analagous to overtreatment of high blood pressure, where transient low blood pressure adversely effects brain function (at least in the elderly)

  • Natalie
    Feb. 13, 2011

    The thing that makes me suspicious of this study is that in another paper, I read that mice regenerate beta cells in the pancreatic duct 7 - 10 times faster than humans do, and in much greater quantity. So perhaps these mice did not go without insulin for very long, and if their pancreases had been examined several weeks or months later, they might have been...

    RHMLucky777

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    The thing that makes me suspicious of this study is that in another paper, I read that mice regenerate beta cells in the pancreatic duct 7 - 10 times faster than humans do, and in much greater quantity. So perhaps these mice did not go without insulin for very long, and if their pancreases had been examined several weeks or months later, they might have been secreting adequate amounts of insulin.

     

    I am also suspicious of mouse models because they are herbivores and process glucose differently from us omnivores.

     

    Natalie ._c-

    • Dr. Fran Cogen
      Health Pro
      Feb. 14, 2011

      Natalie: thanks for providing more information on this subject.!

      DrC