Pathways leading to beta cell division identified, may aid diabetes treatment

Pancreatic beta cells help maintain normal blood glucose levels by producing the hormone insulin - the master regulator of energy (glucose). Impairment and the loss of beta cells interrupts insulin production, leading to type 1 and 2 diabetes. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have, for the first time, mapped out pathways that regulate beta cell growth that could be exploited to trick them to regenerate.

The findings are published in the May 2 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"If we can find a drug that makes beta cells grow, it could improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes," said Maike Sander, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "These people often have residual beta cells but not enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels."

The body generates beta cells in utero and they continue to regenerate after birth, but as people age, cell regeneration diminishes. The predominant way to grow new beta cells is through cell division, but beta cells capable of dividing are rare, compromising less than 1 percent of all beta cells. Scientists have been investigating molecular pathways that govern beta cell growth in hopes of finding new therapies that would help people regain blood glucose control after the onset of diabetes.

In their study, Sander's team identified the pathways that are active when beta cells divide providing insight into possible drug targets. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, the team was able to profile molecular features and metabolic activity of individual beta cells to determine how dividing beta cells differ from non-dividing cells.

"No one has been able to do this analysis because the 1 percent or less of beta cells that are dividing are masked by the 99 percent of beta cells that are not dividing," said Sander. "This in-depth characterization of individual beta cells in different proliferative states was enabled by newer technology. It provides a better picture of what sends beta cells into cell division and clues we can use to try to develop drugs to stimulate certain pathways."

Whether stimulating beta cells to grow will result in therapeutic interventions for diabetes is still to be seen, but this new information opens the door to find out, said Sander.

Chun Zeng, Francesca Mulas, Yinghui Sui, Tiffany Guan, Nathanael Miller, Yuliang Tan, Fenfen Liu, Wen Jin, Andrea C. Carrano, Mark O. Huising, Orian S. Shirihai, Gene W. Yeo, Maike Sander.
Pseudotemporal Ordering of Single Cells Reveals Metabolic Control of Postnatal β Cell Proliferation.
Cell Metabolism, doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.014.

Most Popular Now

Pfizer begins a Phase 1/2 study to evaluate respir…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that it has started a Phase 1/2 trial of its respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate in healthy adult volunteers. RSV i...

Eczema drug effective against severe asthma

Two new studies of patients with difficult-to-control asthma show that the eczema drug dupilumab alleviates asthma symptoms and improves patients' ability to breathe bett...

Most popular vitamin and mineral supplements provi…

The most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital...

AstraZeneca heads to 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting with…

AstraZeneca and MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, head to the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, US...

Tiny particles could help fight brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor, is one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Only a handful of drugs are approved to treat glioblastoma, and the median ...

Novartis data at ASCO and EHA reinforce company's …

Novartis will present data from across its oncology portfolio at the upcoming 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to be held June 1-5 ...

Spiolto® Respimat® enables greater physical activi…

Boehringer Ingelheim announced data which add to the growing body of evidence that show Spiolto® (tiotropium/olodaterol) Respimat® enables greater physical activity in pa...

New approach to immunotherapy leads to complete re…

A novel approach to immunotherapy developed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has led to the complete regression of breast cancer in a patient who was...

Amgen Foundation and Harvard team up to offer free…

The Amgen Foundation and Harvard University today announced plans to launch a free online science education platform uniquely designed to level the playing field for aspi...

Study demonstrates new treatment for severe asthma

Researchers from McMaster University and the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, together with colleagues at other partnering ...

The Pfizer Foundation announces $5 million in gran…

The Pfizer Foundation announced a new $5 million grant commitment to initiatives in low- and middle-income countries that provide family planning access and education for...

Study finds antioxidant-enriched vitamin reduces r…

Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) and the University of Colorado School of Medicine have found that taking a specially formulated antioxid...