- Beta cells in the pancreas may help to maintain the blood glucose levels by producing the insulin hormone.
- The pathways for beta cell division are identified; this may provide new insights on drug targets to aid diabetes treatment.
Pancreatic beta cells may help to maintain the normal blood glucose levels by producing the insulin hormone. A research team from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, used single-cell RNA sequencing to map pathways that would regulate the beta cell growth to trick them to regenerate.
The study findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Maike Sander, "If we can find a drug that makes beta cells grow, it could improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes," said Maike Sander, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
New Way to Grow Beta Cells
Beta cells are generated in utero and could continue to regenerate after birth as well. However, as people age cell regeneration may diminish. The new way to grow beta cells is through cell division.
Beta cells that are capable of dividing are rare, except for only 1% of all the beta cells. Scientists have investigated new molecular pathways which could govern the beta cell growth in hopes of finding the new pathways that could help regain blood glucose control after the onset of diabetes.
Identifying new pathways that are active when beta cells divide, may provide new insights into possible drug targets. The research team also explained the molecular features and metabolic activity of the beta cells to determine how the dividing beta cells may differ from the non-dividing cells.
Sander said, "No one has been able to do this analysis because the 1 percent or less of beta cells that are dividing are masked by the 99 percent of beta cells that are not dividing."
"This in-depth characterization of individual beta cells in different proliferative states was enabled by newer technology. It provides a better picture of what sends beta cells into cell division and clues we can use to try to develop drugs to stimulate certain pathways."
- Chun Zeng, Francesca Mulas, Yinghui Sui, Tiffany Guan, Nathanael Miller, Yuliang Tan, Fenfen Liu, Wen Jin, Andrea C. Carrano, Mark O. Huising, Orian S. Shirihai, Gene W. Yeo, Maike Sander. Pseudotemporal Ordering of Single Cells Reveals Metabolic Control of Postnatal β Cell Proliferation. Cell Metabolism, 2017; 25 (5): 1160 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.014