Identifying the Pro-Survival Actions of Glucose-Dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide on the Pancreatic Beta Cell

Diabetes is a rapidly growing worldwide epidemic. It’s estimated that by 2030, more than 366 million people will have the disease, many of whom will acquire additional conditions such as neurological dysfunction, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. Between 90 and 95 per cent of diabetics have type II diabetes mellitus. This results in hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia (high glucose and fat in the blood), which causes cell death in the beta cells that produce insulin. This further reduces insulin output, accelerating other conditions associated with diabetes. However, by increasing insulin secretion and promoting survival of beta cells, it should be possible to reduce or prevent the conditions associated with type II diabetes. Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) is a gut-derived peptide hormone whose stimulatory actions enhance insulin secretion and inhibit beta cell death. However, the mechanisms by which GIP protects beta cells are unknown. Scott Widenmaier is studying the possibility that GIP prevents beta cell death by relieving the stress placed on the mitochondria, the cell’s energy producing machine. It is expected that this protective mechanism of GIP will provide key information regarding the effects of chronically-high glucose and lipids on beta cells in type II diabetics. This could lead to a novel class of therapeutics to prevent beta cell death, contributing to better health outcomes for type II diabetics.