Culprit Found for Pancreatic Damage

Blood glucose levels that are even slightly above normal increase undesirable deposits of a protein hormone in the pancreas, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, possibly explaining the damage to beta cells seen in people with prediabetes.

Earlier research has shown that baboons develop Type 2 diabetes and obesity in the same manner as humans. Using the autopsy results of 150 baboons that died of natural causes, including diabetes, the investigators discovered that a protein hormone called Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP) shows up even before the onset of diabetes. As blood glucose levels increase, the study found, the pancreatic deposits of this hormone worsen.

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According to the researchers, the hormone somehow changes the environment in an area of the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans, making it toxic to the insulin-producing beta cells. At the same time, the altered environment promotes the replication of cells that produce glucagon, a hormone that increases blood glucose levels.

According to senior author Franco Folli, MD, PhD, “When you have an imbalance like in this situation, this is the perfect storm. You have a condition in which the beta cells die and the alpha cells proliferate. This is the balance that is basically necessary to have the onset of Type 2 diabetes.” He notes that researchers are currently looking at IAPP as a possible target for drug treatment.

For more information, read the article “Previously Unseen Effects of Protein Buildup in Diabetic Baboons’ Pancreases Found,” or see the study on the Web site of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Janet Schulte

    I was in an automobile accident Dec 2002 that damaged my pancreas. In March 2003 I had my first high A1C. I have tried to manage my blood sugars by diet and did OK for 7 -8 years (A1C = 7.0) but recently my A1C went to 7.4. The meds my doctor tried (such as Januvia and a few others) have not lowered my blood sugar. I took a corticosteroid for a different problem (microscopic colitis) and my blood sugar went down to normal while I was on the corticosteroid. I don’t know what to think but my endocrinologist keeps trying the same medications. I tried Januvia again recently – until I saw some information that said Januvia should not be used for a person who has had pancreatitis – I had it twice, My A1C is getting higher and I am losing faith. Is it possible to manage diabetes by diet or using medications like Januvia when the diabetes is the result of a damaged pancreas? Is it possible to test for lower insulin levels as opposed to cells not responding to available insulin?

  • Madison

    Janet,
    I have been pre diabetic, and have several friends who have had diabetes. All of us have “cured” our health issues through diet and exercise. I’ve lost 35 lbs, one friend has lost 120 lbs, and the third person, 30 lbs. Our new way of eating is for life, not temporary. Exercise every day or at least 5x a week raising your heart rate to 80% of a target for your age and condition. Eat no sugar (or substitutes), or processed foods especially ketchup.Read your labels. Cut out all wheat,corn and potatoes and white rice. Eat a very limited amount of dairy, if at all. Do eat plenty of healthy oils, like coconut, fish, olive oils. Eat grass fed beef that has not been fed grains bought in bulk from a local farm as it’s much less expensive and supports your local farmers. Do eat lots and lots of green vegetables, and fruit in moderation. Stay away from the very sweet fruits like bananas and pineapple, and eat berries and apples (with the skin). The goal is to up the antioxidants, and the fiber. Increase healthy omega 3 fats, reduce or eliminate omega 6 fats, and eliminate completely hydrogenated oils. This healthy way of living is good for everyone, so it should help you too.