Insulin-producing beta cells exist in spherical clusters, called islets, in the pancreas. Research shows that beta cells are born, die, and are replaced by other beta cells throughout a person's lifetime, but little is known about the process. When the body cannot produce or replace beta cells, insulin levels fall causing blood glucose levels to rise and diabetes results. This study's findings may eventually have implications for islet transplantation, an experimental treatment for type 1 diabetes.
"This is a step forward in the field, but we're still a long way from using this knowledge to develop a therapy for diabetes," says lead author, Marvin C. Gershengorn, M.D., Scientific Director of NIDDK's Division of Intramural Research and Chief of the institute's Clinical Endocrinology Branch. "For one thing these differentiated cells do not function as well as the original cells. They don't produce as much insulin and they are not as adaptable to changes in the environment. For another thing, we grew these cells in a culture that is not optimal for use in humans, so we are not ready to transplant these cells into people. Still, I am encouraged."
The researchers removed islets from human cadaver pancreata, as is done before islet transplantation, and exposed these islets to a medium containing fetal bovine serum. Over 17 days the cells i
Contact: Marcia Vital
NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases