Intravascular Follistatin gene delivery improves glycemic control in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes

Jonathan R. Davey, Emma Estevez, Rachel E. Thomson, Martin Whitham, Kevin I. Watt, Adam Hagg, Hongwei Qian, Darren C. Henstridge, Helen Ludlow, Mark P. Hedger, Sean L. McGee, Melinda T. Coughlan, Mark A. Febbraio, Paul Gregorevic

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Type 2 diabetes (T2D) manifests from inadequate glucose control due to insulin resistance, hypoinsulinemia, and deteriorating pancreatic β-cell function. The pro-inflammatory factor Activin has been implicated as a positive correlate of severity in T2D patients, and as a negative regulator of glucose uptake by skeletal muscle, and of pancreatic β-cell phenotype in mice. Accordingly, we sought to determine whether intervention with the Activin antagonist Follistatin can ameliorate the diabetic pathology. Here, we report that an intravenous Follistatin gene delivery intervention with tropism for striated muscle reduced the serum concentrations of Activin B and improved glycemic control in the db/db mouse model of T2D. Treatment reversed the hyperglycemic progression with a corresponding reduction in the percentage of glycated-hemoglobin to levels similar to lean, healthy mice. Follistatin gene delivery promoted insulinemia and abundance of insulin-positive pancreatic β-cells, even when treatment was administered to mice with advanced diabetes, supporting a mechanism for improved glycemic control associated with maintenance of functional β-cells. Our data demonstrate that single-dose intravascular Follistatin gene delivery can ameliorate the diabetic progression and improve prognostic markers of disease. These findings are consistent with other observations of Activin-mediated mechanisms exerting deleterious effects in models of obesity and diabetes, and suggest that interventions that attenuate Activin signaling could help further understanding of T2D and the development of novel T2D therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5697-5714
Number of pages18
JournalThe FASEB Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Activin
  • diabetes
  • Follistatin
  • gene therapy
  • skeletal muscle

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