Diabetes Unit

Exceptional research and commitment lead patients, physicians, and researchers to the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Unit from around the globe. Learn more about the history of our research accomplishments.

Innovations Led by the Diabetes Unit Massachusetts General Hospital

For nearly three decades, Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Unit has documented its successes—in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications—as the leader in research and the clinical management and that have revolutionized the treatment of diabetes and its complications.

Improved Treatment of Diabetes Timeline

Year discovery
1980 First successful isolation of pancreatic Islets of Langerhans from mice.
1981 First successful transplantation of islets without immunosuppression in mice.
1984 First demonstration of the clinical utility of HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) assay, which estimates average blood sugar levels over the past three months. HbA1c now widely used for management of diabetes.
1985 Discovered novel glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) hormone and demonstrated that it stimulates insulin secretion and enhances the transcriptional expression of the insulin gene.
1985 First use of implantable pumps to treat diabetes.
1986 First demonstration of the relationship of hyperglycemia (measured by HbA1c) and risk for retinopathy (eye damage) in Type 2 diabetes.
1992
First administration of GLP-1 to type 2 diabetic subjects showing stimulation of insulin secretion and effectively lowering of blood glucose levels.
1993 First definitive proof of the benefits of intensive therapy to prevent complications in Type 1 diabetes, such as heart disease.
1993 Discovery of a gene, IDX-1, that proves to be a master regulator of pancreas development and a key controller of insulin gene expression.
1993 First definitive proof of the benefits of intensive therapy to prevent and delay complications causing eye, kidney and nerve disease in Type 1 diabetes.
1993 Discovery of a gene, IDX-1, that proves to be a master regulator of pancreas development and a key controller of insulin gene expression.
1997 Discovery that GLP-1 stimulates the expression of the IDX-1 transcription factor and promotes the formation of new beta-cells in the pancreas from stem cells.
1998 Characterization of the specific components of the insulin resistance syndrome, and its relationship with glycemia.
1999 First evidence that the secretion of hormones (e.g. ACRP30) from fat is regulated by insulin. First comprehensive evaluation of genetic variations associated with type 2 diabetes, demonstrating an association of a genetic variant of PPAR-gamma with type 2 diabetes. Discovered the Bridge-1 gene and demonstrated that it activates insulin gene expression.
2000 First use of a functional strategy to identify a protein that regulates GLUT4 glucose transporter activity. Development of a transgenic mouse model of age-dependent diabetes mellitus as a result of pancreatic b-cell IDX-1-deficiency.
2002 First treatment to reverse established autoimmune (Type 1) diabetes in the NOD mouse model, using TNF-alpha and MHC class I and self-peptide. Demonstated for the first time that disease removal was sufficient to allow spontaneous islet regeneration in the mouse.
2005 First demonstration that intensive glucose control decreases heart attacks and stroke by 58 percent.
2006 Lead international consensus committee that established recommended treatment of type 2 diabetes.
2009 Lead international consensus committee that recommends use of HbA1c for diagnosis of diabetes.