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Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(9):1000-1011. doi:10.7150/ijbs.25026


The role of FGF21 in type 1 diabetes and its complications

Jian Zhang1,2, Wenya Weng3, Kai Wang2,4, Xuemian Lu3, Lu Cai2,5✉, Jian Sun1✉

1. The Center of Cardiovascular Disorders, the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.
2. Pediatrics Research Institute, Department of Pediatrics, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
3. The Third Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Ruian Center of Chinese-American Research Institute for Diabetic Complications, Ruian, China.
4. The First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China.
5. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA


Data from the International Diabetes Federation show that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, and the incidence is still rising. Although the treatment of diabetes has been advanced, the current therapeutic options and outcomes, e.g. complications, are yet far from ideal. Therefore, an urgent need exists for the development of more effective therapies. Numerous studies have been conducted to establish and confirm whether FGF21 exerts beneficial effects on obesity and diabetes along with its complications. However, most of the studies associated with FGF21 were conducted in the patients with type 2 diabetes. Subsequently, the effect of FGF21 in the prevention or treatment of type 1 diabetes and its complications were also increasingly reported. In this review, we summarize the findings available on the function of FGF21 and the status of FGF21's treatment for type 1 diabetes. Based on the available information, we found that FGF21 exerts a hypoglycemic effect, restores the function of brown fat, and inhibits various complications in type 1 diabetes patients. Although these features are predominantly similar to those observed in the studies that showed the beneficial impact of FGF21 on type 2 diabetes and its complications, there are also certain distinct features and findings that may be of provide important and instructive for us to understand mechanistic insights and further promote the prevention and treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Keywords: FGF21, Type 1 diabetes, Diabetic complications

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Zhang J, Weng W, Wang K, Lu X, Cai L, Sun J. The role of FGF21 in type 1 diabetes and its complications. Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(9):1000-1011. doi:10.7150/ijbs.25026. Available from