Drug combination successfully regenerates beta cell production

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 03 Jan 2019
Drug combination successfully regenerates beta cell production
A cocktail of drugs has been developed which researchers say can regenerate cells that produce insulin.

The findings could have a significant impact on the prevention of type 1 diabetes, which develops when beta cells in the pancreas stop making insulin, the hormone needed to control blood glucose levels.

The recent trial, led by a team from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, involved combining two classes of drugs. This resulted in the replication of adult human beta cells at a rate of between 5-8% per day.

Lead author Dr Andrew Stewart, director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute, said: "We are very excited about this new observation because, for the first time, we are able to see rates of human cell beta cell replication that are sufficient to replenish beta cell mass in human beings."

This breakthrough was based on previous work carried out by the same team. In an earlier study they found a small molecule called dual-specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A) led to a beta cell proliferation rate of 1.5-3%.

They took those findings and added in another molecule from a different class of drug, which raised the production rate. The additional drug is an inhibitor of proteins in the transforming growth factor beta superfamily (TGFβSF).

While the research is helping to speed up the rate of replication, the speed is still too low for it to be effective in people. The team want to find ways to increase production and also how to get the newly-made beta cells delivered to the pancreas.

Dr Stewart said: "Since these drugs have effects on other organs in the body, we now need to develop methods to deliver these drugs specifically to the beta cell in humans."

The findings have been published in the Cell Metabolism journal.
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