For the first time US scientists have mapped out how beta cells grow which could lead to their regeneration within type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Scientists from UC San Diego School of Medicine now plan to develop therapeutic interventions for diabetes based on this discovery.
“If we can find a drug that makes beta cells grow, it could improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes,” said study author Maike Sander, MD.
Scientists have known that beta cells can be grown through cell division, but there is a scarcity of beta cells capable of dividing, around one per cent.
So Sander’s team set about identifying the pathways that are active when beta cells divide. To do this they used a technique called single-cell RNA sequencing.
They then identified a number of molecule features and metabolic activity of individual beta cells, which helped them determine how the one per cent differs from non-dividing cells.
This discovery helped them map out the pathways that determine regular beta cell growth, which has not previously been achieved before.
“No one has been able to do this analysis because the 1 per cent or less of beta cells that are dividing are masked by the 99 per cent of beta cells that are not dividing,” said Sander.
“This in-depth characterization of individual beta cells in different proliferative states was enabled by newer technology. It provides a better picture of what sends beta cells into cell division and clues we can use to try to develop drugs to stimulate certain pathways.”
The researchers say this new information opens the door to the development of drugs that could help people regain blood glucose control after the onset of diabetes.
The study appears online in the journal Diabetes Care.

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