Global diabetes experts to create detailed beta cell model

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 27 Mar 2018
Global diabetes experts to create detailed beta cell model
A team of worldwide diabetes specialists have created a detailed 3D version of pancreatic beta cells in a bid to understand why the condition develops.

The Pancreatic Beta Cell Consortium is made up of about 50 scientists, clinicians, engineers, and digital artists, who are hoping to complete the project in five years.

The group is also inviting other experts to join, as they hope to combine the skills of biologists, mathematicians and computer scientists from across the globe. On the group's website it says the model they are working on "will change the way scientists approach biological research and drug design".

The role of beta cells in the pancreas is to produce, store and release insulin. But in type 1 diabetes, immune attack causes the cells' destruction, while in type 2 diabetes insulin resistance prevents the cells from functioning as normal.

It is still not totally clear why this happens, but researchers hope developing this detailed model may help to provide new clues.

Raymond Stevens, a University of Southern California (USC) chemist and structural biologist who is the lead author on the paper and a founder of the consortium, said: "We are converging to solve a difficult problem to solve a structure at multiple scales, from the individual atoms, to the small molecules, to the macromolecule, to the cell.

"We hope our project lays the foundation for people to be able to model neurons, stem cells and other types of cells."

The Pancreatic Beta Cell Consortium is an open-source programme, which means the group will compile an open data bank, so anyone can deposit any information about the pancreatic beta cell which they think may be useful.

The consortium aims to find out what all the components of the cell are and how they are all linked.
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