Secondary research focuses on the potential cardiovascular benefits of the peptide. More recent, and thus less robust, research focuses on the ability of GLP-1 to stave off neurodegenerative disease. Though this latter area of research is newest, it is also the fast-growing area of GLP-1 study now that the peptide has been revealed to slow or prevent the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques in the setting of Alzheimer’s disease.
A GLP-1 receptor has been identified on the surface of pancreatic beta cells, making it clear that GLP-1 directly stimulates the exocytosis of insulin from the pancreas. When combined with sulfonylurea drugs, GLP-1 has been shown to boost insulin secretion enough to cause mild hypoglycemia in up to 40% of subjects.
Research in animal models suggests that GLP-1 can stimulate the growth and proliferation of pancreatic beta cells and that it may stimulate the differentiation of new beta cells form progenitors in the pancreatic duct epithelium. Research has also shown that GLP-1 inhibits beta cell apoptosis.
In one particularly compelling trial, GLP-1 was shown to inhibit the death of beta cells caused by enhanced levels of inflammatory cytokines. In fact, mouse models of type 1 diabetes have revealed that GLP-1 protects islet cells from destruction and may, in fact, be a useful means of preventing onset of the type 1 diabetes
Research in mouse models suggests that administration of GLP-1, and its similar cousin GLP-1, into the brains of mice can reduce the drive to eat and inhibit food intake. It appears that GLP-1 may actually enhance feelings of satiety, helping individuals to feel fuller and reducing hunger indirectly. Recent clinical studies have shown in mice that twice daily administration of GLP-1 receptor agonists cause gradual, linear weight loss. Over a long period, this weight loss is associated with significant improvement in cardiovascular risk factors and a reduction in hemoglobin A1C levels, the latter of these being a proxy marker for the severity of diabetes and the quality of blood sugar control attained via treatment.