Recent findings from a study
on beta cell regeneration may open up doors to new therapies for people with
type 1 diabetes.
JDRF-funded researchers in Israel found for the first time
that a high rate of glucose metabolism - the process in which glucose is
converted into energy - prompts existing insulin-producing beta cells to form
new beta cells in mice. Published in the April 6 issue of Cell Metabolism,
the breakthrough findings give us a new understanding of what actually elicits
beta cell regeneration. Regeneration lies not in blood glucose itself, suggests
the study, but in the glucose-sensing capability of the beta cell.
Over the course of five years, Yuval Dor, Ph.D. (a professor
at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem) and Benjamin Glaser, M.D. (of Hadassah Medical
Center) conducted a
series of experiments in which they used a genetic system to cause diabetes in
adult mice by destroying 80 percent of their insulin-producing cells. When
compared to control mice, the mice with diabetes whose blood glucose levels
were elevated had regenerated more new beta cells than the mice without
diabetes, suggesting the important role of glucose in beta cell regeneration.
With this in mind, the researchers then set out to
understand how glucose played this
role. By manipulating certain steps in the glucose metabolism pathway, they
discovered that an enzyme called glucokinase - which sparks
the first step in converting glucose to energy - also stimulates the
replication of beta cells.
So, what does this mean for people with type 1 diabetes?
Since glucokinase, rather than glucose itself, was found to be a key factor, the
study implies that drugs which activate this enzyme may be more useful in prompting
beta cells to regenerate than therapies that raise glucose levels. Elevated
glucose levels can lead to complications such as organ damage and can even destroy
more beta cells, so the possibility of using therapies that avoid this is
Because of its ability to increase insulin production, this
class of drugs that activates glucokinase is already being
developed to treat type 2 diabetes. With new insight into the enzyme's
abilities, JDRF is hopeful that these drugs may also help restore beta cell
function in people with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.JDRF has been at the helm of a novel and fast-growing field
of research focused on finding ways to protect and regenerate insulin-producing
cells in people who have diabetes or those who are at risk. We are excited by
the innovative studies we fund like Dr. Dor's, as new findings
like this propel us forward on the path toward better treatments and a cure for
type 1 diabetes.
wow this is amazing...very good news!