But, perhaps a bigger concern in replacing beta cells, said Riccordi, is the potential of causing dangerously low blood sugar levels. Both beta and alpha cells are destroyed in people with type 1 diabetes, and alpha cells produce glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar levels in the body when they drop too low. So, if researchers only replace insulin-producing beta cells, and not alpha cells, there is a potential of causing low blood sugar levels, which can also be deadly.
Still, "it is important to explore all avenues in diabetes research," Riccordi said, "because what you learn in one area may be helpful for others. But don't place too much hope or hype in one area."
Learn more about type 1 diabetes from the American Diabetes Association.
SOURCES: G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., associate professor, department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, and director, Transgenic Core Facility, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; Camillo Riccordi, M.D., scientific director, Diabetes Research Institute, Hollywood, Fla., Dec. 12, 2010, presentation, American Society of Cell Biology annual meeting, Philadelphia
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