Beta cells progenitors researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Diabetes Research Center were able to separate the pancreatic cells from adult mice. These can produce insulin. They have been indefinable before so their existence has been questionable.
Cell, the scientific journal, published the findings in the January 25 issue. Harry Heimberg's research team did the report. This shows promise in the sense that if the progenitor cells are also found in human pancreas, then it may leave the door open for new treatments for diabetic patients.
We know that the diabetics do not have enough insulin because their beta cells that produce it are not sufficient. And to move the main source of energy from the blood to the cells, insulin is needed. The primary source of energy is sugar.
It took so long to discover these progenitors cells because for one thing they are in short supply. Then it was difficult to get these cells to act. What the Heimberg's research team did to solve these challenges was to fasten the channel that uses up the digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
Clamping the channel resulted in the activation of the progenitor cells. The investigators then did some genetic labeling on these cells to make it possible to detect and separate them. Here is the good part. During the process, the beta cells doubled in quantity. What does this mean to us?
If more studies on this are pursued to find out if these progenitor cells are also in humans and the factors that make them produce insulin, then there will be more chance for people to undergo the successful treatment of beta cells transplantation.
This has been a controversial issue in diabetes research but in this recent study, beta cells have been generated and they are responsive to glucose. They are found in the pancreas of the adult mice and can be activated to increase the beta cell mass.
This research has provided the proof needed to show that cells in the adult pancreas exist and have the potential to generate beta cells. Needless to say, discovering the molecules involved in such generation will be a rewarding though challenging endeavor.
As long as there is inadequate supply of beta cells, this successful therapy of transplantation is limited because of insufficient donor organs. Getting large supplies of these will solve this problem and will make the transplantation available to more people if there are enough beta cells progenitors.