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Int J Clin Pract Suppl. 2007 Jun;(153):10-9.

The importance of beta-cell management in type 2 diabetes.

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  • 1Munich Institute of Diabetes Research and Medical Department, Krankenhaus Munchen-Schwabing, Munich, Germany.


Despite intervention with effective oral glucose-lowering agents, most patients with type 2 diabetes will experience a gradual loss of glycaemic control. Irrespective of underlying levels of insulin resistance, the progressive failure and loss of beta-cells are ultimately responsible for the onset of frank type 2 diabetes. The mechanisms responsible for loss of beta-cell function are likely to be multifactorial, but may involve toxicity because of elevated glucose and/or lipid levels, increased secretory demand because of insulin resistance, amyloid deposition and altered levels of cytokines. Preservation of beta-cell function is now gaining recognition as a critical target in the management of type 2 diabetes. For patients with frank type 2 diabetes, preservation of beta-cell function has the potential to reduce or stabilise the progression of type 2 diabetes and to decrease the need for additional oral glucose-lowering agents and/or insulin therapy. There is a growing body of animal/preclinical evidence for improved and preserved beta-cell function with current glucose-lowering agents, such as the thiazolidinediones, metformin and the glucagon-like peptide-1 analogue, exenatide. Clinical studies incorporating indirect measures of beta-cell function also support a protective effect with some agents. A number of novel therapies that are currently under investigation may also offer beta-cell structural and functional protection, including dipeptidyl peptidase IV inhibitors and cannabinoid receptor type 1 blockers. Emerging evidence from interventional trials suggests that both intensive lifestyle changes and pharmacotherapy can delay or possibly prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals. For patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, early and aggressive intervention strategies that combine maximal glucose-lowering efficacy alongside potential beta-cell preserving properties may provide an opportunity to delay or prevent progression of the disease.

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