8 September 2020

New insights into how the brain can induce diabetes remission in rodents

Research video

CBMR Associate Professor Tune H. Pers and his group have helped discover how the peptide FGF1 causes persistent change to particular neurons within the hypothalamus. A better understanding of these changes, which induce long-lasting diabetes remission in rodents, could lead to better treatments for diabetes

Several years, Professor Michael W. Schwartz from at the University of Washington discovered that a single injection of the peptide FGF1 can restore blood sugar levels to normal, in rodents with type 2 diabetes. Associate Professor Tune H. Pers, from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR), immediately understood that a better understanding of the underlying mechanism might ultimately lead to more effective diabetes treatments that tap into the brain's inherent potential to ameliorate the condition.

Tune H. Pers, his Postdoc Marie A Bentsen and PhD student Dylan Rausch, teamed up with Professor Schwartz to investigate the mechanism further. In Nature Communications they report that particular neurons within the hypothalamus are changed in a sustained way after being targeted by FGF1, and that this change is critical to induce long-lasting diabetes remission. 

"In diabetes research the brain is not always seen as a key player but this clearly shows that by modulating the brain you can really, in a very potent way potentially treat diabetes," says Associate Professor Tune H. Pers.

In addition, they found that glial cells – which not only provide structural support but also help to organize and regulate neurocircuit activity – responded more intensely than did neurons, brain cells known for the electrical transmission of information.

These new insights may one day inform therapeutic strategies for inducing sustained diabetes remission, rather than simply lowering blood sugar levels on a day-to-day basis as current treatments do. Current treatments have to be taken regularly, and 50 percent of all diabetic patients fail to reach their target glycemic levels.

Read the full article in Nature Communications here: Transcriptomic analysis links diverse hypothalamic cell types to fibroblast growth factor 1-induced sustained diabetes remission