Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals scientists collaborated on a recently published study in which the hormone activin was applied to human islets from donors who had type 2 diabetes. In untreated islets, glucose failed to stimulate insulin secretion as one would expect in diabetes. But in the activin treated islets, elevated glucose stimulated insulin release to levels seen in normal islets in the absence of activin.
This is important because of another part of this study in which gene expression was compared between normal and diabetic islets. Activin production is very high in normal islets but reduced by 50% in diabetic islets. Critically, the activin inhibitor, FSTL3, is expressed at 8-fold greater levels in diabetic islets compared to normal. This means that functional activin (activin not inhibited by FSTL3) is much lower in diabetic islets. This suggests that one defect in diabetic islets is loss of activin signaling and when that activin is restored, insulin release returns to normal.
Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals is developing technology that will inhibit the action of FSTL3. Therefore, the newly published research suggests that this technology could have important therapeutic effects in patients with diabetes to enhance insulin release and restore more normal glucose control.