In a new study, published Nov. 7 in Nature Medicine, recent findings may have implications for the future development of type 2 diabetes therapies that target and protect beta cells.

The protein adipsin, which is produced in body fat, helps protect insulin-secreting cells called pancreatic beta cells from destruction in type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. Among middle-aged adults, higher levels of the protein in the blood were also associated with protection from type 2 diabetes.

“A big problem associated with type 2 diabetes is that beta cells stop functioning properly and fade away,” said senior author Dr. James C. Lo, assistant professor of medicine and of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine and a cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. About 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and up to 95% of these individuals have the type 2 form of the disease, in which the body stops responding to insulin and pancreatic beta cells slowly stop producing enough of it.

The team, which included researchers in the laboratories of Drs. Mingming Hao, Noah Dephoure and Dr. Lukas Dow at Weill Cornell Medicine, knew that adipsin had a role in stimulating beta cells to secrete insulin and theorized that the protein might be a potential therapy for type 2 diabetes.

To explore this theory, the scientists first conducted a study in which they increasedadipsin levels in mice with type 2 diabetes. They found that adipsin had a long-term positive effect on diabetes, improving blood sugar and increasing insulin levels while helping to prevent beta cell death. “Our findings in mice showed that more adipsin in the blood translated to better diabetes control,” Dr. Lo said.

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