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Promising new drug to combat type 2 diabetes

17 July 2014

A hormone naturally produced by the body, FGF1, has turned out to be a promising new drug for type 2 diabetes. The hormone works in much the same way as insulin, but has two added advantages: the effect lasts longer and it does not cause the life-threatening drop in blood glucose seen with insulin. These are the results of research carried out by molecular biologist Hans Jonker from the University Medical Center Groningen. His findings are published in today’s edition of the scientific journal Nature.

Patients with type 2 diabetes do not respond well to the hormone insulin or, at later stages of the disease, produce less insulin. Cells need insulin to absorb glucose from the blood and create a stable blood glucose level. This is why certain diabetes patients have to inject themselves with insulin several times a day, after every meal. The dose must be calculated carefully as too much insulin can cause a dangerously low blood glucose level, which may result in the patient losing consciousness and can be lethal.

Longer-lasting effect than insulin

Jonker studied the effect of the natural hormone FGF1 on the blood glucose levels of mice with type 2 diabetes. The effect appeared to be similar to that of insulin, but it lasted much longer. After administering FGF1, the blood glucose level remained normal for three days, while the effect of insulin disappears after a few minutes. In addition, FGF1 did not cause the blood glucose level to drop below the normal level, irrespective of how much was administered. In other words, there is no risk of the life threatening hypoglycemia. FGF1 is therefore a promising new drug for combating type 2 diabetes. Jonker expects to be able to start clinical trials in another two years.

Collaboration with Salk Institute

Jonker conducted his research in collaboration with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the United States, where he worked in the laboratory of top biologist Ronald M. Evans until 2010. Evans was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Groningen. Jonker discovered the function of FGF1 and demonstrated the link between FGF1 and the development of diabetes during his time in the United States. His latest results are a direct result of these previous findings.


Prof. Hans Jonker studied molecular biology at Utrecht University. In 2003, he was awarded a PhD with distinction for research carried out at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. He worked as a postdoc researcher in the laboratory of Ronald M. Evans in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the United States from 2005 until 2010. Jonker has worked for the UMCG since 2010, where he heads his own research group.

More information about Jonker’s research into the function of the hormone FGF1 is available on KennisInZicht (Dutch) and his personal page

Last modified:15 January 2018 10.27 a.m.
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