JDRF-funded researchers have identified a key signal that prompts existing insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to form new beta cells in mice. This breakthrough may help researchers find new ways to increase the number of beta cells in a person with type 1 diabetes.
The study, led by Professor Yuval Dor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published this week in top journal Cell Metabolism, shows that it is the process by which beta cells convert glucose into energy that controls beta cell regeneration.
Researcher Shay Porat said: ‘This means that the more work that beta cells are required to do, the more of themselves they make.’
The five year study used a combination of surgical, pharmacological and genetic research techniques to understand the way glucose is used in beta cells. An enzyme called glucokinase, which triggers the first step in converting glucose to energy, was found to be the trigger that causes the beta cells to replicate.
Because this study showed that regeneration depends on glucokinase levels, rather than glucose levels, researchers may be able to develop targeted drugs to trigger beta cell regeneration.
Dr Eleanor Kennedy, Head of Research Communication at JDRF said: ‘This novel research suggests that existing type 2 diabetes drugs that activate glucokinase could be investigated as a new target for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.’