FGF1 refers to the fibroblast growth factor 1 protein. The FGF family members possess broad mitogenic and cell survival activities, and are involved in a variety of biological processes, including embryonic development, cell growth, morphogenesis, tissue repair, tumor growth and invasion.
A study by Salk researchers, published in the journal Nature, demonstrated that treatment with FGF1 reverses diabetes in mice, without the side effects commonly associated with drugs. Type 2 diabetes, has become a public health issue and is mainly attributed to lack of exercise and obesity. Almost 30 million Americans are estimated to have the disease. Diabetes is a chronic disease which can cause serious health problems and has no specific cure.
“Controlling glucose is a dominant problem in our society,” says Ronald M. Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and corresponding author of the paper. “And FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way.”
Evans’ research team in 2012 discovered that a long-ignored growth factor had a hidden function: it helps the body respond to insulin. Mice lacking the growth factor, called FGF1, quickly develop diabetes when placed on a high-fat diet. This finding suggests that FGF1 playes a key role in managing blood glucose levels. To test the theory, obese mice with diabetes were injected with FGF1.
“Many previous studies that injected FGF1 showed no effect on healthy mice,” says Michael Downes, a senior staff scientist and co-corresponding author of the new work. “However, when we injected it into a diabetic mouse, we saw a dramatic improvement in glucose.”
“With FGF1, we really haven’t seen hypoglycemia or other common side effects,” says Salk postdoctoral research fellow Jae Myoung Suh, a member of Evans’ lab and first author of the new paper. “It may be that FGF1 leads to a more ‘normal’ type of response compared to other drugs because it metabolizes quickly in the body and targets certain cell types.”
“There are many questions that emerge from this work and the avenues for investigating FGF1 in diabetes and metabolism are now wide open,” Evans says.
Jae Myoung Suh, Johan W. Jonker, Maryam Ahmadian, Regina Goetz, Denise Lackey, Olivia Osborn, Zhifeng Huang, Weilin Liu, Eiji Yoshihara, Theo H. van Dijk, Rick Havinga, Weiwei Fan, Yun-Qiang Yin, Ruth T. Yu, Christopher Liddle, Annette R. Atkins, Jerrold M. Olefsky, Moosa Mohammadi, Michael Downes, Ronald M. Evans. Endocrinization of FGF1 produces a neomorphic and potent insulin sensitizer. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13540