Researchers Discover Method For Making Insulin-producing Cells
Type 1 diabetes is caused because people that suffer this disease cannot produce the insulin they need. There are specialized cells in the pancreas that are in charge of producing this essential substance that regulates each cell’s glucose intake. Even patients with type 2 diabetes are not producing enough insulin, in their case because the other cells in the body have become resistant to insulin and their receptors do not work as they should. An important field of research in diabetes studies has been the potential to turn other cells of the body into insulin-producing cells, like those in the pancreas. The aim of this type of research is to find a pathway or a mechanism to coax another cell into producing this substance, within its normal metabolic processes. In recent studies, it seems that researchers have made important advances into discovering the process that can turn any cell into a pancreatic cell of the variety that produces insulin.
Today’s insulin therapy has been effective in most patients to help them manage their blood glucose levels. However, external insulin still can provoke a whole range of serious complications. If it were possible to instead replace the cells that produce insulin in the first place, this could prove to be a safer and long-lasting solution. In the case of type 1 diabetes patients, their original pancreatic cells that produce insulin were lost due to an autoimmune response or a whole variety of possible issues. In the case of type 2 diabetes patients, the insulin that their pancreas produces is not enough due to insulin resistance.
Researchers have discovered that beta cells (those that produce insulin) are closely related to other kinds of cells in the endocrine system. In the lab it has been possible to find ways to turn these kinds of cells into one another. It is a recent development in medical technology that is now being exploited by researchers, the fact that cells are not rigidly set in one identity but, under certain circumstances, can be pushed into converting themselves into other kinds of cells. By manipulating DNA and triggering specific genes, researchers have found a way for a cell to lose its identity and to start producing proteins that it would not normally produce. This kind of procedure is not so much about changing the DNA but about looking at those chemicals and substances that work on the DNA and control how it is organized within the cell and which genes are turned on, and which are turned off. By discovering the pathways that control how a cell reads DNA, it is possible to turn many kinds of cells into insulin-producing beta cells. This is especially true of stem cells.
A breakthrough of this magnitude could mean great things in the future of diabetes research. Actually replacing a patient’s pancreatic cells could be a simple and straightforward way to halt diabetes . As of now, no actual cure for diabetes exists and at best, people with diabetes can manage it so that it interferes as little as possible with their lives.
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