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


  • First successful isolation of pancreatic Islets of Langerhans from mice.


  • First successful transplantation of islets without immunosuppression in mice.


  • 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.


  • Discovered novel glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) hormone and demonstrated that it stimulates insulin secretion and enhances the transcriptional expression of the insulin gene.


  • First use of implantable pumps to treat diabetes.


  • First demonstration of the relationship of hyperglycemia (measured by HbA1c) and risk for retinopathy (eye damage) in Type 2 diabetes.


  • First administration of GLP-1 to type 2 diabetic subjects showing stimulation of insulin secretion and effectively lowering of blood glucose levels.


  • First definitive proof of the benefits of intensive therapy to prevent complications in Type 1 diabetes, such as heart disease.


  • Discovery of a gene, IDX-1, that proves to be a master regulator of pancreas development and a key controller of insulin gene expression.


  • First definitive proof of the benefits of intensive therapy to prevent and delay complications causing eye, kidney and nerve disease in Type 1 diabetes.


  • 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.


  • Characterization of the specific components of the insulin resistance syndrome, and its relationship with glycemia.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • First treatment to reverse established autoimmune (Type 1) diabetes in the NOD mouse model, using TNF-alpha and MHC class I and self-peptide. Demonstrated for the first time that disease removal was sufficient to allow spontaneous islet regeneration in the mouse.


  • First demonstration that intensive glucose control decreases heart attacks and stroke by 58 percent.


  • Lead international consensus committee that established recommended treatment of type 2 diabetes.


  • Lead international consensus committee that recommends use of HbA1c for diagnosis of diabetes.


  • Launch of the Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes Study.