Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the University of Brighton have examined a collection of specimens of pancreas from patients who died soon after they were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and found that they responded to their destruction by inducing their islet cells to proliferate.
The findings, published in Diabetologia, countered the general view that beta cells in humans divide only very infrequently after the first year or so of life and that they do not readily proliferate once type 1 diabetes is diagnosed.
Although it is still unclear what triggered the replication process in patients with type 1 diabetes, it was found that there was a 10-fold increase in islet cell replication in these patients. Such a therapy could help those with the condition to produce their own insulin for a longer period, thereby reducing the need for administering medication .
Although the research is at a very early stage, it is hoped the results show it might be possible to encourage the beta cells of a patient that has been newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to reproduce, as a way of replacing those that are being destroyed by the disease.
Professor Noel Morga, of Peninsula Medical School, said “Our findings are significant because they challenge current thinking and offer the hope that, at some point in the future, a therapy could be developed that would allow individuals who are developing type 1 diabetes to retain their own insulin.”

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