Delta cells could increase insulin production in type 1 diabetes
Researchers have shown that the body can create new insulin producing cells from other cells in the pancreas.
Type 1 diabetes causes the immune system to recognise beta cells, the cells that produce insulin, as an invader to be killed off. This response is known as an autoimmune response. The new research shows that other cells in the pancreas, called delta cells, can be reprogrammed by the body to act as beta cells and produce insulin.
The delta cells in the pancreas produce the hormone somatostatin which is involved in regulating the production of insulin and glucagon. Previously researchers have shown that alpha cells in the pancreas can be reprogrammed to produce insulin but the effect has not been seen in children. With delta cells, the reprogramming into beta cells does exist in children.
The research suggests that if the immune system can be sufficiently tamed, the pancreas should be able to regenerate new insulin producing cells, even in people that have had type 1 diabetes for a number of years.
However, taming the immune system is still a large ‘if’ as researchers have yet to find an effective method of preventing the destruction of beta cells. The type 1 diabetes charity, the JDRF, who have funded this study are also funding a series of clinical trials as part of their restoration research program, which aims to stop the body’s autoimmune response.
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