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IMAGE: (l.to r.) Emrah Altindis, PhD, research fellow in the section on Integrative Physiology And Metabolism at Joslin Diabetes Center, and C. Ronald Kahn, MD, Senior Investigator, Head of… view more 

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Credit: Stephanie McPherson

BOSTON — (Feb. 19, 2018) — Every cell in your body responds to the hormone insulin, and if that process starts to fail, you get diabetes. In an unexpected finding, scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center have identified four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones that are active on human cells. The discovery brings new possibilities for revealing biological mechanisms that may cause diabetes or cancer.

“Our research may help open up a new field that we might call microbial endocrinology,” says Emrah Altindis, PhD, a Joslin research fellow and lead author on a paper in the journal PNAS on the work. “We show that these viral insulin-like peptides can act on human and rodent cells. With the very large number of microbial peptides to which we are exposed, there is a novel window for host-microbe interactions. We hope that studying these processes will help us to better understand the role of microbes in human disease.”

“Indeed, the discovery of the viral insulin-like hormones raises the question of what their role

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