Replenishing insulin-producing pancreatic β cell mass will benefit both type I and type II diabetics. In adults, pancreatic β cells are generated primarily by self-duplication. We report on a mouse model of insulin resistance that induces dramatic pancreatic β cell proliferation and β cell mass expansion. Using this model, we identify a hormone, betatrophin, that is primarily expressed in liver and fat. Expression of betatrophin correlates with β cell proliferation in other mouse models of insulin resistance and during gestation. Transient expression of betatrophin in mouse liver significantly and specifically promotes pancreatic β cell proliferation, expands β cell mass, and improves glucose tolerance. Thus, betatrophin treatment could augment or replace insulin injections by increasing the number of endogenous insulin-producing cells in diabetics.
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