Scientists in the United States have identified a molecular pathway that could offer new common treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients. The breakthrough could lead to new medications that allow the pancreas of people with either type of diabetes to produce more insulin, thereby helping patients manage their glucose levels better.
The researchers, from Stanford University and whose work was published in the journal Nature, showed that a molecule known as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is responsible for the growth of new insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It was observed that the activity of the pathway lessened over time, with older people tending to have less beta cells than the young, which could explain why the former are at a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The team assessed mice genetically engineered to have low expression of PDGF, noticing that they also had less of the molecules associated with cell growth and fewer beta cells in their pancreases. When the PDGF molecule was artificially stimulated, the mice started to quickly grow new beta cells and improved blood sugar control.
Lead researcher Seung Kim commented “This work revealed that there are some pathways that haven’t been explored in human beta cells that underlie the age-related loss of beta cell proliferation.”
He added “We’re hopeful that soon we might be able to manipulate this pathway in a therapeutic way in humans.”

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