Dr. Atkinson presented findings from nPOD, which have enabled researchers to assess the potential for islet cell regeneration. "Contrary to common dogma, what we've learned so far is that some pancreata from subjects with long-standing type 1 diabetes have insulin positive beta cells and some have many intact islets. This finding gives hope for islet cell regeneration or restoration," Atkinson noted. He pointed out another key finding: that some islets have beta cells that don't produce insulin. "If we know beta cells are there, then we can focus on finding ways to get them to produce insulin," Dr. Atkinson explained.
JDRF's Chief Medical Officer, Paul Strumph, MD, also presented findings that showed how beta cell mass expands in response to increased metabolic demands such as growth during the first decade of life, obesity, and pregnancy - leading to possible therapeutics that mimic the biological mechanisms that increase insulin-producing cells in this instances. "A little bit of insulin is not a cure, but it can be significant to reduce the complications of diabetes," Strumph noted.
A New Era of Diabetes Research Has Begun
All of the presenters agreed that researchers are on the cusp of a new era in diabetes research, one in which advanced technology and human clinical research should enhance the development of new therapeutics and an ultimate cure.
"Much of what we've known regarding the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes has dated back to studies performed with the human pancreas' in the 1970s -- before microwaves, the internet and cell phones, and before modern day medical research technology. Now we're looking at this disease in whole new ways," explained Atkinson.
Strumph added that there is more of an emphasis on looking at the natural history of the disease to guide research opportunities for th
|Contact: Jillian Lubarsky|
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International