What is Betatrophin & why is Harvard so excited about it?

BetatrophinHarvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) is making a big announcement today about stems, the biggest they say in their almost decade-long existence.

Last night I speculated/predicted some possible announcements.

Today I’m betting they will announce the discovery of a novel factor called Betatrophin.

More on Betatrophin in a minute, but first why do I think it most likely that their announcement is on it?

In reality, I’m still not sure, but I suspect it is Betatrophin because I was alerted to a perhaps premature press release last night here talking about Doug Melton giving a big seminar on Betatrophin (emphasis mine):

Dr. Melton’s presentation will focus on the research of making human pancreatic beta cells to study and treat diabetes. This goal is pursued with two main approaches: directing the differentiation of stem cells into beta cells and studying the signals that replicate pre-existing beta cells. The signals that direct stem and progenitor cells toward a mature beta cell phenotype will be described as well as work on a secreted protein, betatrophin, that induces beta cell replication.

Also this morning on Facebook HSCI (see image above) referred to today as “B Day!”

I’m guessing the B refers to Betatrophin.

Again, I could be totally wrong.

It could be human therapeutic cloning  (i.e. normal hESC made by SCNT) or even something totally different.

If it is Betatrophin, why should we be excited?

If researchers can easily grow and expand beta cells it could have very major therapeutic implications for treating Diabetes. Apparently Betatrophin is the first growth factor to accomplish this amazing function.

On the website of the Broad Institute describes the therapeutic potential of a compound that stimulates beta cell growth in this context:

The loss of the number and function of pancreatic beta cells in both type-1 and type-2 diabetes results in a reduction in the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas, and thus a chronic hyperglycemia that ultimately claims the lives of diabetic patients. This state leads to the various complications that ultimately claim the lives of diabetic patients. A chemical compound that could increase human beta-cell proliferation would have a tremendous clinical impact on both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. For example, such a compound could be developed for in vivo delivery. This type of discovery would transform the treatment of diabetes. We are focused on the discovery of chemicals and genes that amplify the number of functional beta cells by increasing beta-cell proliferation. We have developed methods for high-throughput cell culture of primary human pancreatic islet cells, and use this system to screen for small-molecule inducers of human beta-cell proliferation. In an ideal therapeutic setting, chemical compounds derived from these agents would accomplish their actions on beta-cell function and number in vivo, without the need for transplantation and its accompanying immunosuppressive therapy. Our approach aims to stimulate beta-cell proliferation with small-molecule drugs in a way that increases overall beta-cell mass.

So is the announcement today on Betatrophin? If I were a gambling man I’d put my money on it, but only say $20.

Whatever it is, it sure sounds interesting.


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  1. Today is probably B-Day For Harvard Stem as in Betatrophin

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