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Type 1 diabetes: Drawing nearer to treatment that generates new insulin cells



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Published Monday 3 December 2018
Recent research has broken new ground in the quest for a type 1 diabetes treatment that generates insulin-making cells.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the Helmholtz Zentrum München in Neuherberg, Germany have mapped the signals that determine the destiny of progenitor cells in the pancreas.

These immature cells can develop into either islet cells that make insulin or another type of cell.

The journal Nature features a paper on the findings.

This research reveals that pancreatic progenitor cells bounce around and that their immediate environment, or extracellular matrix, plays a strong role in deciding their fate.

"We have now been able," says Prof. Henrik Semb, senior author and director of the Institute of Translational Stem Cell Research at Helmholtz Zentrum München, "to map the signal that determines whether pancreatic progenitor cells will become endocrine, such as insulin-producing beta cells, or duct cells."

Type 1 diabetes and islet cells


Insulin is a hormone that helps cells absorb glucose and use it to make energy.

Diabetes develops when the body's level of blood sugar is too high. This can happen either because there is not enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or because the cells are unable to use it properly (type 2 diabetes).

Figures for 2015 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that around 30.3 million people in the United States had diabetes that year. About 5 percent of them have type 1 diabetes, requiring daily insulin treatment.

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