A key aspect of how embryos create the cells which secrete insulin is revealed in a new study published tomorrow (18 May) in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The researchers hope that their findings will enable the development of new therapies for diabetes, a condition caused by insufficient levels of insulin.
The research reveals that glucose plays a key role in enabling healthy beta cells, which secrete insulin, to develop in the pancreas of an embryo. Glucose prompts a gene called Neurogenin3 to switch on another gene, known as NeuroD, which is crucial for the normal development of beta cells. If glucose levels are low this gene is not switched on.
Insulin is the principal hormone that regulates the uptake of glucose and if the beta cells are unable to produce sufficient insulin, this can cause diabetes.
The scientists, from Imperial College London and an INSERM Unit at Necker Hospital, Paris, hope that understanding how to switch on the gene that produces beta cells could eventually enable researchers to create these cells from stem cells. They could then transplant beta cells into patients with type 1 diabetes. In this type of diabetes the immune system attacks patients' beta cells and at the moment few patients with the condition are able to have beta cell transplants, because the cells have to be taken from deceased donors.
The researchers also hope that scientists will be able to develop drug therapies that enhance the action of glucose and hence encourage the growth of healthy beta cells.
Professor Guy Rutter, from the Division of Medicine at Imperial College and one of the authors of the paper, said: "We hope that by demonstrating that an 'extrinsic' factor like glucose can regulate the way in which insulin secreting cells develop we may eventually be able to reverse defects in the growth of these cells in patients with diabetes. Research like ours is opening up whole new sets of targets for drug treatments."
The researchers reached their conclusions after conducting research on tissues cultured from the primordial pancreas of very young rat embryos. Using an in vitro system, rather than looking at cells in vivo, enables researchers to gain a greater understanding of when and how different genes are being switched on.
Source: Imperial College London
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- 2004 BL86 - 'Near Miss' Asteroid Even Has Its Own Moon
- Reviews In Physics - A New Journal
- Drug Culture: Those “Poppers” Might Not Be What You Think
- Planet With Rings Found Outside Solar System - And They Are Bigger Than Saturn
- Wiggles: Inconsistencies Undermine Model Reliability For Projecting Decade-To-Decade Warming
- If Abortion Is A Choice Then Sex Selection Abortion Should Remain Legal
- Age-related Macular Degeneration: Blindness Linked To Calcium Deposits In The Eye
- "Hello Sven,good questions. Let me give you some possible answers below.1 - the main advantage of..."
- "so boring. we've all heard this already. back to your intermediate level culture studies class..."
- "For what it’s worth, my impression is that here in Britain it is very much a local argument,..."
- "Wow Tommaso that sounds like a real challenge. Starting a new journal isn't easy at all especially..."
- "With increasing amount of information collected the contemporary physics needs to move from specialized..."
- Breast cancer will soon be only the second most common deadly tumor for EU women
- Notch signaling: How cancer turns good cells to the dark side
- Flexible work schedules improve health and sleep for employees
- How to create a scientific process freed from systemic bias
- How to jump-start ecosystem restoration after oil-gas development