Discovery may lead to new diabetes treatments
Saturday, 26 January 2019
Researchers in Norway recently made what they believe to be an exciting discovery that they believe could change the way we manage diabetes and it’s all to do with our bodies’ own cells.
Researchers at the University of Bergen, in collaboration with other international researchers, have discovered that glucagon producing cells in the pancreas can change identity and adapt so that they do the job for their neighbouring damaged or missing insulin cells.
As a result, the team believes they are possibly facing the start of a totally new form of treatment for diabetes, where the body can produce its own insulin with some start-up help.
Cells can change identity
The researchers discovered that only about 2 per cent of the neighbouring cells in the pancreas could change identity. However, even that amount makes the researchers optimistic about potential new treatment approaches.
For the first time in history, researchers were able to describe the mechanisms behind the process of cell identity.
It turns out this is not a passive process but is a result of signals from the surrounding cells. In the study, researchers were able to increase the number of insulin producing cells to 5 per cent by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process. Thus far, the results have only been shown in animal models.
Researchers believe that if they can gain more knowledge about the mechanisms behind this cell flexibility, they could possibly be able to control the process and change more cells’ identities so that more insulin can be produced.
Possible new treatment against cell death
According to the researchers, the new discoveries is not only good news for diabetes treatment.
The cells´ability to change identity and function maybe a decisive discovery in treating other diseases caused by cell death, such as Alzheimer´s disease and cellular damage due to heart attacks.