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A Brand New Type of Insulin Producing Cells Identified

A Brand New Type of Insulin Producing Cells Identified

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  • Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the destruction of beta cells which leads to absence of insulin production.
  • India is home to more than 97,700 children with type 1 Diabetes, whose beta cells have been destroyed.
  • The scientists from the University of California have shown that immature beta cells are present at the corner of the Islets of Langerhans.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is among the most common pediatric illnesses associated with the endocrine system. More than half of the affected children live in developing nations, with India being home to nearly 97,700 children with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). The beta cells that produce insulin are not replaced once they die in people with type 1 diabetes, which results in the cells losing their ability to maintain blood glucose levels. A research team from the University of California has identified a method by which these beta cells can be regenerated, highlighting the key mechanisms involved in healthy metabolism and diabetes. This could lead to a potential new target for drug therapy.


A Brand New Type of Insulin Producing Cells Identified

UC Davis College of Biological Sciences' Dr. Mark Huising, who is an assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior, said that there have been significant advancements in treatment of diabetes; however, there has been no cure that has been developed thus far. In order to find a method to cure the disease, it is important to understand the mechanism of disease progression. Dr. Huising is the senior author of the study which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Regulating Blood Glucose

Dr. Huising and colleagues worked with human and mice cells to study the mechanism of action of the islets of Langerhans. The islets contain beta cells that secrete insulin when they detect glucose, while there are other cells, like the alpha cells, which produce the hormone glucagon that raises blood sugar. The blood sugar homeostasis is maintained by the effects of insulin and glucagon.

Type 1 Diabetes

Studies have shown that there are 97,700 children with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in India. A study conducted in South India showed that
  • There was a prevalence of 0.26/1000 children
  • The peak age at which the condition was diagnosed was 12 years.
This was the first population-based study that was conducted in South India and it showed that the prevalence of insulin-dependent diabetes was no longer rare, but was higher than the numbers that were reported form other regions
  • The incidence of type I diabetes is 3.7/100,000 in boys and 4.0/100,000 in girls over 13 years in Karnataka
  • The highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in India is recorded in Karnal, Haryana with a prevalence of 31.9/100,000. The prevalence of T1DM is 4.27/100,000 in the rural areas of the district while the prevalence is 26.6/100,000 in the urban areas.
  • Every year, an estimated 18,000 newly diagnosed children with T1DM children, below the age of 15 years, are identified in India.
  • The World Health Organization reports that the prevalence of T1DM among children is 111,500
The rise in numbers of children with type 1 diabetes is a cause of concern, with better methods of management and treatment necessary to control the rise.

There are two critical steps that are involved in the development of Type I
  • The body's immune system destroys the beta cells
  • The beta cells then fail to regenerate and those cells that do regenerate are destroyed by the immune system
This prevents the secretion of insulin in the body, which elevates sugar levels. In order to get a cure for type 1 diabetes, it is important to address both these steps.

The currently accepted mechanism is that the newly generated beta cells are due to other cells that divide. On applying the current advancements in microscopy, Dr. Huising and colleagues discovered that there was a different type of cells present at the edge of the islets that seemed like immature beta cells.

Dr. Huising said that there is more plasticity in the system that what was generally believed. When the fundamentals in diabetes are understood better, treatment options would be more advanced.
  • The newly identified beta cell population was not identified before
  • The beta cells that were identified can be used to replenish the beta cells that were depleted.
  • An insight into how these immature beta cells develop into functioning insulin producing beta cells would help in designing advanced therapeutic strategies.

Stem Cells For Diabetes Therapy

Stem cells have the ability to develop into any type of cell in the body. However, attempts to grow stem cells into beta cells were faced with the stem cells halting at an immature state. This provides key insights into type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the beta cells are not destroyed but the cells become inactive and do not secrete insulin.

Director of discovery research at JDRF, Dr. Andrew Rakeman, said that the work completed by Dr. Huising and colleagues was remarkable and that the concept of regenerating the beta cells by tapping into their ability of plasticity was intriguing.

The findings of the study show
  • The degree of plasticity in islet cells
  • The path of development that is taken by these cells helps in establishing their identity
This understanding of the development of the beta cells in the islets can be used to develop better therapeutic methods for the treatment of diabetes.

References :
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413385/ - (Incidence trends for childhood type 1 diabetes in India)

Source: Medindia

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