An Australian study has identified a potential new treatment for people suffering from type 1 diabetes. The research has pinpointed a method of bringing about the destruction of the beta cells that help to produce insulin within the pancreas.
It was shown that these insulin-producing cells require a complex sugar called in order to survive, and that replacement it in the beta cells allows the cells to survive, and not die off or become damaged by oxidation. The study, which was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigatio, revealed that the depletion of heparan sulphate was a dominant factor in the death of beta cells.
Charmaine Simeonovic, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, argued that ‘We attribute this cell death to loss of the beta cells’ normal defence against damage by oxidation caused by free radicals, or highly chemically reactive atoms, molecules or ions.”
In addition, it was found that autoimmune cells are able to harm beta cells through the production of an enzyme called heparanase, as it degrades heparan sulphate in beta cells.
Dr Simeonovic added “‘This has revealed a new understanding of the development of type 1 diabetes and has identified a new therapeutic strategy for preventing progression of the autoimmune disease and associated complications.”

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