How insulin-producing cells develop -- new finding could help fight against diabetes

May 17, 2007

A key aspect of how embryos create the cells which secrete insulin is revealed in a new study published tomorrow (18 May) in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The researchers hope that their findings will enable the development of new therapies for diabetes, a condition caused by insufficient levels of insulin.

The research reveals that glucose plays a key role in enabling healthy beta cells, which secrete insulin, to develop in the pancreas of an embryo. Glucose prompts a gene called Neurogenin3 to switch on another gene, known as NeuroD, which is crucial for the normal development of beta cells. If glucose levels are low this gene is not switched on.

Insulin is the principal hormone that regulates the uptake of glucose and if the beta cells are unable to produce sufficient insulin, this can cause diabetes.

The scientists, from Imperial College London and an INSERM Unit at Necker Hospital, Paris, hope that understanding how to switch on the gene that produces beta cells could eventually enable researchers to create these cells from stem cells. They could then transplant beta cells into patients with type 1 diabetes. In this type of diabetes the immune system attacks patients' beta cells and at the moment few patients with the condition are able to have beta cell transplants, because the cells have to be taken from deceased donors.

The researchers also hope that scientists will be able to develop drug therapies that enhance the action of glucose and hence encourage the growth of healthy beta cells.

Professor Guy Rutter, from the Division of Medicine at Imperial College and one of the authors of the paper, said: "We hope that by demonstrating that an 'extrinsic' factor like glucose can regulate the way in which insulin secreting cells develop we may eventually be able to reverse defects in the growth of these cells in patients with diabetes. Research like ours is opening up whole new sets of targets for drug treatments."

The researchers reached their conclusions after conducting research on tissues cultured from the primordial pancreas of very young rat embryos. Using an in vitro system, rather than looking at cells in vivo, enables researchers to gain a greater understanding of when and how different genes are being switched on.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Australian treatment could save wounded soldiers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

9 hours ago

A Scandinavian team "with an international outlook" and good eye for electronics, software and design aims to reach success with what they characterize as "a softer take" on home security. Their device is ...

Man pleads guilty in New York cybercrime case

12 hours ago

A California man has pleaded guilty in New York City for his role marketing malware that federal authorities say infected more than a half-million computers worldwide.

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

21 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

Recommended for you

A hybrid vehicle that delivers DNA

22 hours ago

A new hybrid vehicle is under development. Its performance isn't measured by the distance it travels, but rather the delivery of its cargo: vaccines that contain genetically engineered DNA to fight HIV, cancer, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.