These new findings regarding glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) receptor agonists suggest that the brain's GLP-1 system has the ability to affect autonomic function, leading to changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
A naturally occurring hormone that is produced by cells lining the intestine, GLP-1 was first targeted as a diabetes treatment about 15 years ago, according to the study's senior author Joel Elmquist, D.V.M., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and endocrinologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Associate Professor of Neurology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
"GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion and controls feeding and drinking behavior, and also regulates neuroendocrine responses to agents that elicit illness-like behaviors," he explains. "The effect on insulin secretion made the hormone an obvious target for treating diabetes."
Diabetes develops when the body fails to either produce or to properly use insulin, a hormone necessary to convert food including sugars and starches into energy. Type II diabetes accounts for the majority of cases of the disease, and is a huge public health problem: As many as 16 million individuals in the United States have Type II diabetes, which puts them at risk for a number of serious complications, including stroke and heart disease.
Although diabetes can often be controlled through diet, exercise and existing medications, the magnitude of the problem has given rise to the development of a number of new drugs to better manage the disease, including the GLP-1 agonists. These agents, which are currently being tested in clinical trials, work by targeting the rate of gastric emptying and by stimulating insulin secretion from islet cells in the
Contact: Bonnie Prescott
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center