Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with reduced β-cell mass or function, resulting from decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis. Understanding the signals governing β-cell survival and regeneration is critical for developing strategies to maintain healthy populations of these cells in individuals. Both forms of diabetes are associated with hyperglucagonemia and an increased plasma glucagon:insulin ratio.
Glucagon excess contributes to metabolic dysregulation of the diabetic state and glucagon receptor antagonism is a potential target area for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Our studies presented here suggest that blockade of glucagon signaling lowers glycemia in mouse models of type 1 diabetes while enhancing formation of functional β-cell mass and production of insulin-positive cells from α-cell precursors.
We evaluated the potential for a monoclonal antibody antagonist of the glucagon receptor (Ab-4) to maintain glucose homeostasis in type 1 diabetic rodents. We noted durable and sustained improvements in glycemia which persist long after treatment withdrawal. Ab-4 promoted β-cell survival and enhanced the recovery of insulin+ islet mass with concomitant increases in circulating insulin and C peptide.
In PANIC-ATTAC mice, an inducible model of β-cell apoptosis which allows for robust assessment of β-cell regeneration following caspase-8–induced diabetes, Ab-4 drove a 6.7-fold increase in β-cell mass. Lineage tracing suggests that this restoration of functional insulin-producing cells was at least partially driven by α-cell-to-β-cell conversion. Following hyperglycemic onset in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, Ab-4 treatment promoted improvements in C-peptide levels and insulin+ islet mass was dramatically increased. Lastly, diabetic mice receiving human islet xenografts showed stable improvements in glycemic control and increased human insulin secretion.