Loss of functional beta-cells is the primary cause of type 2 diabetes, so that there is an acute need to understand how beta-cell number and function are regulated in the adult under normal physiological conditions. Recent studies suggest that members of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta family regulate beta-cell function and glucose homeostasis. These factors are also likely to influence beta-cell proliferation and/or the incorporation of new beta-cells from progenitors in adults. Soluble TGFbeta antagonists also appear to have important roles in maintaining homeostasis, and the coordinated activity of TGFbeta family members is likely to regulate the differentiation and function of adult beta-cells, raising the possibility of developing new diabetes therapies based on TGFbeta agonists or antagonists.
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