Researchers Identify Impaired Insulin Secretion in Adolescents

Friday, June 24, 2011

Abnormalities in pancreatic beta cells that make and secrete insulin – a hormone that controls glucose levels in the blood – can be identified in obese teens before they actually develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.

Beta-cell function declines rapidly in obese teens who develop type 2 diabetes. Moreover, this rapid decline in beta-cell function appears to be independent of markers of insulin sensitivity and body weight, says Deborah Elder, MD, an endocrinologist at Cincinnati Children’s.

Dr. Elder will present her study June 27 at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.

“Beta-cell dysfunction is central to type 2 diabetes. In adults the decline of beta-cell function is progressive, starting years before diagnosis,” says Dr. Elder. “But in these teens who develop type 2 diabetes, beta-cell function declines quickly. Insulin secretion was less than 30 percent of the mean in the 6-12 months preceding the diabetes diagnosis. Our data also suggest that elevated levels of pro-insulin – a precursor to insulin also made in the pancreas – may be used as a screening tool to identify those at heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Dr. Elder and colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s studied 41 obese, non-diabetic adolescents over a four-year period. Four developed type 2 diabetes between two and four years after the study began.

If high risk individuals can be identified, there may be an opportunity to intervene to slow the progression to type 2 diabetes or even reverse beta-cell deterioration, says Dr. Elder.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Best Children's Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for gastroenterology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties - a distinction shared by only two other pediatric hospitals in the United States. Cincinnati Children's is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

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