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

percent of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreases of adult mice, rendering the mice diabetic.

When the researchers compared these mice with control mice, they found that those mice with diabetes and elevated blood glucose levels had regenerated a greater number of new beta cells than mice without diabetes, suggesting that glucose may be a key player in beta cell regeneration. But the researchers further found that a glucose-sensing enzyme in the cells, glucokinase, is the key molecule that triggers the beta cell regeneration.

"This means that the more work that beta cells are required to do (that is, the more 'stressed' they are), the more of themselves they make," said graduate student Shay Porat, who, along with fellow graduate student Noa Weinberg, spearheaded the study, which was funded with the support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). .

Because this study showed that regeneration depends on glucokinase levels, the finding may pave the way for developing a new kind of drug to modulate glucokinase or other steps in the glucose-sensing pathway to direct beta cells down the path of regeneration and replication.

And, should a mechanism be discovered that prevents the immune system from attacking beta cells in the first place, as occurs among diabetics, the combined treatment could help pave the way towards a full cure for type 1 diabetes.

Further research in this area is proceeding, with the eventual goal of progressing towards human clinical trials.


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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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