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Role of Appetite Hormone MCH in Insulin Production Revealed

A new Joslin Diabetes Center-led study has shown conclusively that a neuropeptide, melanin concentrating hormone (MCH), found in the brain and known for its role in// increasing appetite in people, plays a role in the growth of insulin-producing beta cells and the secretion of insulin. This finding has the potential to spur the development of new treatments for diabetes that stimulate the production of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

An earlier Joslin-led study examined the connection between obesity and MCH, which plays a critical role in energy balance and appetite, observing an increase in the number of beta cells when MCH levels are high. This was a new finding that had not been observed before. Although MCH’s role in appetite control is well known, its effects on the secretion of endocrine hormones has not been fully understood.

“It’s a very logical connection,” says Rohit N. Kulkarni, M.D., Ph.D., investigator at Joslin Diabetes Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the study. “Whenever you eat food, your body needs more insulin. When MCH induces appetite, it simultaneously increases insulin secretion from beta cells and enhances growth of beta cells. If the proteins that mediate the growth mechanism can be identified, it could lead to the development of new drugs that would enhance beta cell growth to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”

In type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent) diabetes, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent (between 700,000 and 1.4 million people) of diabetes cases in the United States, an autoimmune process has destroyed the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. In type 2 diabetes, the far more common form of the disease, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or can’t use insulin properly (insulin resistance). Both diseases could benefit from treatments that stimulate beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin.

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