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Study Finds That Insulin-Producing Beta Cells Can Be Reborn
Date:4/4/2010

Different pancreatic cells change into beta cells, suggesting new therapy for type 1 diabetes,,

SUNDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Certain cells in the pancreas can regenerate themselves into insulin-producing cells after normal insulin-producing cells have been destroyed, as happens in type 1 diabetes, a new study found.

Swiss researchers discovered that when they destroyed the insulin-producing cells, known as beta cells, in mice to induce an artificial form of type 1 diabetes, other cells in the pancreas called alpha cells then changed into insulin-producing beta cells.

"The adult pancreas can regenerate new beta cells even if they are totally absent -- like in type 1 diabetes," said the study's senior author, Pedro Herrera, a professor in the department of cell physiology and metabolism at the University of Geneva Medical School.

Diabetes experts cautioned, however, that far more research is needed to see if the process could benefit people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that allows people to convert food into energy. People with type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin therapy for the rest of the lives.

And if such a process occurs in humans, or could be induced to occur, one large roadblock remains. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attack on beta cells appears to go on indefinitely, which is why people who've had transplants of insulin-producing cells eventually must go back on insulin. The immune system destroys the transplanted beta cells, too.

"Any time you're thinking about any type of a cure or really good treatments for type 1 diabetes, you have to consider both the beta cells and the immune side," said Andrew Rakeman, the scientific program manager in beta cell regeneration at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The JDRF funded a portion of the new rese
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