The body may be able to cure type 1 diabetes in the future, according to scientists

by Barbara Hewitt on January 14, 2019

Scientists believe that the human body could one day be able to cure diabetes itself after finding that it is possible for other cells to take over the functions of missing or damaged insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

The discovery could lead to new treatments for diabetes in the future, according to the research from a team at the University of Bergen that found that glucagon-producing cells in the pancreas, can change identity and adapt so that they do the job for their neighbouring damaged or missing insulin cells.

Science Lab


‘We are possibly facing the start of a totally new form of treatment for diabetes, where the body can produce its own insulin, with some start-up help,’ said researcher Luiza Ghila at the Raeder Research Laboratory at the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen (UiB).

The researchers discovered that only about 2% of the neighbouring cells in the pancreas could change identity but this could be sufficient for potential new treatment approaches.

For the first time they have been able to describe the mechanisms behind the process of cell identity. It turns out that this is not a passive process, but is a result of signals from the surrounding cells.

In the study, researchers were able to increase the number of insulin producing cells to 5% by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process. Thus far, the results have only been shown in animal models.

‘If we gain more knowledge about the mechanisms behind this cell flexibility, then we could possibly be able to control the process and change more cells’ identities so that more insulin can be produced,’ Ghila explained.

They also believe that finding out that a cell has the ability to change identity and function, may be a decisive discovery in treating other diseases caused by cell death, such as Alzheimer´s disease and cellular damage due to heart attacks.

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