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Key signal that prompts production of insulin-producing beta cells points way toward diabetes cure
Date:9/12/2011

Jerusalem, Sept. 11, 2011 -- Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have identified the key signal that prompts production of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas -- a breakthrough discovery that may ultimately help researchers find ways to restore or increase beta cell function in people with type 1 diabetes.

The work on the multi-year project was led by Prof. Yuval Dor of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University, researchers from the Hadassah University Medical Center and researchers from the diabetes section of the Roche pharmaceuticals company. The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"Our work shows that as the glucose level is increased in the blood, it tells the beta cells to regenerate," says Dor. "It's not blood glucose per se that is the signal, but the glucose-sensing capacity of the beta cell that's the key for regeneration." This was the first time that this sensing of a high level of glucose has been shown to be the "trigger" that induces beta cells to regenerate.

In persons suffering from type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, the immune system launches a misguided attack on the insulin-producing beta cells, resulting in the cells' decline of insulin production and eventual loss of function.

Without insulin, the body's cells cannot absorb glucose from the blood and use it for energy. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, leaving the body's cells and tissues starved for energy. That's why people with the disease must inject insulin and monitor their blood glucose levels diligently every day. To cure type 1 diabetes, it will be necessary to develop methods to increase beta cell replication and mass, hence the potential therapeutic importance of the current study.

In their work, Dor, along with co-lead author Prof. Benjamin Glaser of the Hadassah University Medical Center, used a genetic system to destroy 80
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Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-258-82904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Source:Eurekalert  

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