Genetically engineered mice have the ability to regenerate insulin producing pancreatic cells after the cells die. The hope is that this finding will translate to humans, resulting in a new treatment for diabetes. Pancreatic beta cells are responsible for producing insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. For type 1 diabetics, the bodies immune system kills beta cells, resulting in insulin deficiency. In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and reduced insulin sensitivity results from overuse of pancreatic beta cells. The so-called PANIC-ATTAC mice that were genetically engineered in the study, had a condition that translates to type 1 diabetes in humans. After inducing the death of pancreatic beta cells in the mice, it was “found that the engineered mice’s beta-cell populations can regenerate, which makes the animal useful for studying conditions such as type 1 diabetes, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and gestational diabetes.” The researchers had engineered the beta-cells of these mice to die upon contact with a certain drug, which was subsequently administered. The beta-cells died, as expected, but when the drug administrations was stopped, the beta-cells regenerated, and normal blood sugar levels returned within two months. “The fact that the beta cells regenerate after we kill them is really the new aspect of the model,” says senior author Dr. Philipp Scherer. This cell regeneration was an unexpected bonus to a study that had aimed primarily at inducing beta-cell death in mice, and the mechanism by which the cells do regenerate is not understood by the researchers. Nonetheless, with the knowledge that the PANIC-ATTAC mouse responds this way, further research can be done to understand why this regeneration takes place. An understanding of how to regenerate dead beta-cells could lead to revolutionary new treatments for type 1 diabetes. Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Scherer, Philipp. Shear, Kristen Holland. Diabetes news release. June 2008.
Defeat Diabetes Foundation