Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are known to stem from decreased production of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. The good news is that some University of Pittsburgh researchers have discovered a way to stimulate regeneration of these cells. Lead researchers Dr. Andrew Stewart, Dr. Nathalie Fiaschi-Taesch, and Dr. Todd Bigatel utilized cadaveric beta cells to understand what causes the cells to replicate. Dr. Stewart says they pinpointed 40 molecules that may impact beta cell replication and they discovered two beta cell molecules--cdk-6 and cyclin D1--can be altered using gene therapy to replicate 40 times faster than normal. Fiaschi-Taesch says the next step included injecting diabetic mice with the altered beta cells. She says the cells completely corrected the diabetes in the animals. However, Taesch cautions that this is not yet a cure for diabetes, but that more research must be done to determine if the procedure is safe for humans.
The research was made possible by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Institute of Health, American Diabetes Association, Pam and Scott Kroh, and Don and Arlene Wagner.