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Defeat Diabetes
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Insulin Producing Cells Shown to Regenerate

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2008

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- An in vitro (controlled lab environment) experiment has recently concluded that insulin producing pancreatic beta-cells have the ability to regenerate themselves. This could greatly enhance the medical field's understanding of diabetes.

Diabetes is characterized by the inability of pancreatic beta-cells to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by beta-cell dysfunction, while type 2 diabetes is characterized by beta-cell numbers decreasing over time, helping lead to insulin resistance. Pancreatic beta-cells are one type of cell that reside in the area of the pancreas known as Islets of Langerhans.

The in vitro experiment demonstrated that beta-cells can be brought to a more primitive "stem-cell" state in which they are capable of regenerating. Other islet of Langerhans cells were shown to have similar regenerative abilities. The process performed in the experiment is known as "dedifferentiation." "The potential for dedifferentiation of all the different cells that make up the islets of Langerhans is a totally new finding," says researcher Dr. Lawrence Rosenburg of McGill University.

The study being done in vitro means that there is some doubt as to how natural this process in within a healthy pancreas, and whether it can be induced in an unhealthy one. If these results are demonstrated to be natural though, new understanding and treatments for diabetes could subsequently develop. Dr. Rosenburg states that "at this stage, we can't confirm whether the cells' ability to turn into stem-like cells occur naturally in a healthy pancreas, but the results are very encouraging for the development of regenerative therapies to fight diabetes."

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Rosenburg, Lawrence. Burns, Rebecca. Laboratory Investigation news release. July 2008.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2008 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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