"In mice, Neurogenin-3 initiates the development of the endocrine cells in the pancreas, including the insulin-producing cells," said Dr. Michael German, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Hormone Research Institute. "In the absence of Neurogenin-3, no insulin-producing cells are generated in the pancreas, and the animals develop diabetes at birth. Therefore, Neurogenin-3 has been termed a 'pro-endocrine' gene, since it drives progenitor cells to mature into endocrine cells."
"The cure for enteric anendocrinosis and diabetes--two diseases that involve failure of a specific type of cell--may eventually be derived from stem cells that are able to replace the dysfunctional cells and produce the right kind of hormones," said Dr. Doron Kahana, a pediatric gastroenterology research fellow in Martn's lab.
There are about 30 known causes of chronic diarrhea. It affects approximately 5 percent of the population and only rarely occurs during the first several weeks of life.
Unlike acute diarrhea--which is normally caused by a virus, bacteria or parasite and generally improves within a few days or weeks--chronic diarrhea persists and can lead to severe malnutrition and growth failure in children.
For newborns with enteric anendocrinosis, their condition is worsened by eating. Treatment usually involves specialized formulas and intravenous nutrition to minimize the diarrheal symptoms and promote growth. Currently, there is no cure for the illness.