Our body may cure itself of diabetes in future

In the study, researchers were able to increase the number of insulin-producing cells to five per cent, by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process.

Published: 07th January 2019 07:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2019 07:33 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes


LONDON: Researchers have identified cells in the human body that can take over functions of damaged or missing insulin-producing cells, an advance that may lead to new treatments for diabetes.

Diabetes is caused by damaged or non-existing insulin cells' inability to produce insulin, a hormone that is necessary in regulating blood sugar levels.

Many diabetes patients take insulin supplements to regulate these levels, said researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway.

They discovered that glucagon-producing cells in the pancreas can change identity and adapt so that they do the job for their neighbouring damaged or missing insulin cells.

"We are possibly facing the start of a totally new form of treatment for diabetes, where the body can produce its own insulin, with some start-up help," said Luiza Ghila from the University of Bergen.

The researchers discovered that only about two per cent of the neighbouring cells in the pancreas could change identity.

However, even that amount makes the researchers optimistic about potential new treatment approaches.

Researchers were able to describe the mechanisms behind the process of cell identity.

It turns out that this is not at passive process, but is a result of signals from the surrounding cells.

In the study, researchers were able to increase the number of insulin-producing cells to five per cent, by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process.

Thus far, the results have only been shown in animal models, researchers said.

"If we gain more knowledge about the mechanisms behind this cell flexibility, then we could possibly be able to control the process and change more cells' identities so that more insulin can be produced," Ghila said.

According to the researchers, the new discoveries is not only good news for diabetes treatment.

"The cells' ability to change identity and function, may be a decisive discovery in treating other diseases caused by cell death, such as Alzheimer's disease and cellular damage due to heart attacks," said Ghila.

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