Insulin-producing cells continue to proliferate, offer hope for type 1 diabetics

A research team at the Peninsula Medical School in England has observed that insulin-producing beta cells are capable of proliferating in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Until now, it has been believed that human beta cells divide infrequently and do not continue to grow in diabetics.

However, by using pancreas specimens taken from patients who had died soon after diagnosis, researchers found evidence that there is a 10-fold increase in islet cell replication. A previous study had reported the same observation in an animal model and although the factors that trigger proliferation are unclear, the team believes that these findings offer hope.

“At some point in the future, a therapy could be developed that would allow individuals who are developing type 1 diabetes to retain their own insulin,” said professor Noel Morgan, director of the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences. “We are a long way from this point, but the first steps have been taken with this research.”

The scientists hope that these preliminary findings will also provide insight on potentially halting or reversing the onset of type 1 diabetes.