Beta cell survival boosting protein could slow down onset of type 1 diabetes

A new study has discovered a protein responsible for boosting the survival rate of beta cells that shows promise to slow the onset of type 1 diabetes in animals and humans.

Researchers around the world have focused on increasing beta cell mass by way of various replacement therapies, such as stem cell regeneration.

Here, a team of international scientists at the Medical University of Vienna have been working on early-stage therapies to keep the existing beta cell population alive.

Their research, published in the EMBO Journal, identifies a key protein called secretagogin whose levels appear to determine the fate of beta cells.

When secretagogin is lacking, an intracellular programme designed to help beta cells get rid of toxic waste get disrupted and this precipitates their death.

However, artificially increasing the amount of this protein ensures full function of those mechanisms that keep beta cells up and running.

Secretagogin can be thought of as biological shielding that equips beta cells with self-protection against various attacks or accumulation of toxic waste material.

The researchers were able to show in animal models as well as in human beta cells that, as type 1 diabetes develops, the level of secretagogin becomes significantly reduced.

This suggests an inverse correlation, meaning that as type 1 diabetes progresses, levels of secretagogin proportionally decrease, and it is problematic as more is better.

Researchers are now trying to find receptor targets through which to stimulate the concentration of secretagogin in pancreatic islets to keep it at a stable gradient.

They’ve already found a candidate receptor, the transmembrane protein TRPV1, which is expressed on the surface of beta cells.

When TRPV1 is stimulated by capsaicin, a naturally occurring compound in bell and chilli pepper, more secretagogin is being produced in beta cells.

It is, however, premature to suggest that people with type 1 diabetes could make their beta cells stronger by consuming more peppers or chillies in the diet.

More follow-up studies in humans would have to demonstrate a strong enough effect, but these findings still offer valuable insights for preventive therapies in type 1 diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

  • Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as insulin resistance and/or
  • Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

From this, it can be understood that for someone with diabetes something that is food for ordinary people can become a sort of metabolic poison.

This is why people with diabetes are advised to avoid sources of dietary sugar.

The good news is for very many people with type 2 diabetes this is all they have to do to stay well. If you can keep your blood sugar lower by avoiding dietary sugar, likely you will never need long-term medication.

Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence mainly in people over 40. However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more common in young adults, teens and children and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.

How serious is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition that often requires the use of anti-diabetic medication, or insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. However, the development of type 2 diabetes and its side effects (complications) can be prevented if detected and treated at an early stage.

In recent years, it has become apparent that many people with type 2 diabetes are able to reverse diabetes through methods including low-carb diets, very-low-calorie diets and exercise.

For guidance on healthy eating to improve blood glucose levels and weight and to fight back against insulin resistance, join the Low Carb Program.

Following pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes can potentially be avoided through diet and exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and convert it into energy.

Ineffective use of insulin results in the body becoming resistant to insulin – also known as insulin resistance, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

In advanced stages, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production for your body’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

A number of factors can increase the risk…