Glucagon-like peptide 1: evolution of an incretin into a treatment for diabetes.
Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is a product of proglucagon that is secreted by specialized intestinal endocrine cells after meals. GLP-1 is insulinotropic and plays a role in the incretin effect, the augmented insulin response observed when glucose is absorbed through the gut. GLP-1 also appears to regulate a number of processes that reduce fluctuations in blood glucose, such as gastric emptying, glucagon secretion, food intake, and possibly glucose production and glucose uptake. These effects, in addition to the stimulation of insulin secretion, suggest a broad role for GLP-1 as a mediator of postprandial glucose homeostasis. Consistent with this role, the most prominent effect of experimental blockade of GLP-1 signaling is an increase in blood glucose. Recent data also suggest that GLP-1 is involved in the regulation of beta-cell mass. Whereas other insulinotropic gastrointestinal hormones are relatively ineffective in stimulating insulin secretion in persons with type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 retains this action and is very effective in lowering blood glucose levels in these patients. There are currently a number of products in development that utilize the GLP-1-signaling system as a mechanism for the treatment of diabetes. These compounds, GLP-1 receptor agonists and agents that retard the metabolism of native GLP-1, have shown promising results in clinical trials. The application of GLP-1 to clinical use fulfills a long-standing interest in adapting endogenous insulinotropic hormones to the treatment of diabetes.
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