A chemical produced by the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas was found to prevent or in some cases reverse Type 1 diabetes in mice, reveals study.
Type 1 diabetes, earlier known as juvenile diabetes, is characterized by the immune system's destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for making and secreting insulin.
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital studied the role of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid produced by beta cells in the pancreas to check its impact on diabetes.
They discovered that GABA injections not only prevented diabetes in mice, but also even reversed the disease.
The study suggested the significance of GABA lies in the fact that it corrects both known causes of Type 1 diabetes in mice. It works in the pancreas to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells and acts on the immune system to stop the destruction of those cells.
The researchers explained that these two actions are vital in reversing the disease and preventing its recurrence.
"GABA is the first agent to act both by protecting the insulin-producing cells from damage and by decreasing the body's immune reaction against these cells," said Dr. Gary F. Lewis, Director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Toronto.
According to study leader Dr. Qinghua Wang, from the division of endocrinology and metabolism, GABA and related therapies will have to be tested in human clinical trials before they can be considered as a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes.
The study findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.