HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessMajor Breakthrough: New Study Finds Potential Target For Diabetes Treatment

Major Breakthrough: New Study Finds Potential Target For Diabetes Treatment

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A novel insulin regeneration route in pancreatic stem cells may open the door for effective new treatments for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

A significant step in developing new therapeutics for the treatment of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has been made by a world-first study conducted by Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Using the pancreas stem cells of a type 1 diabetic donor, scientists were able to efficiently reawaken them to become insulin-expressing and functionally resemble beta-like cells by administering an FDA-approved but unlicensed medication.

The novel strategy would theoretically allow for the replacement of destroyed insulin-producing cells (beta-cells) in type 1 diabetics with brand-new insulin-producing cells, albeit more research is necessary.

Researchers from the Monash Department of Diabetes, including Professor Sam El-Osta, Dr. Keith Al-Hasani, and Dr. Ishant Khurana, are leading a study that could result in a new treatment option for insulin-dependent diabetes, which affects seven Australian children every day and requires daily insulin injections to replace the insulin that a damaged pancreas can no longer produce.

As the number of people with diabetes around the world gets close to 500 million, researchers are scrambling to find ways to treat it.

Professor El-Osta said, “We consider the research novel and an important step forward towards developing new therapies.”

Since the diabetic pancreas was typically thought to be too damaged to heal, the researchers had to overcome a number of hurdles in order to restore insulin expression in a damaged pancreas.

Nature journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy has published the findings.

By the time a person is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, many of their pancreatic beta cells, which create insulin, have been damaged, according to Professor El-Osta.

The proof-of-concept experiments “address unmet medical needs in type 1 diabetes,” according to these investigations, which also demonstrate that the diabetic pancreas is not incapable of producing insulin.

According to Professor El-Osta, research into the genetics of diabetes has led to “greater understanding” and “a resurgence of interest in the development of potential therapies.”

“Patients rely on daily insulin injections to replace what would have been produced by the pancreas. Currently, the only other effective therapy requires pancreatic islet transplantation and while this has improved health outcomes for individuals with diabetes, transplantation relies on organ donors, so it has limited widespread use,” adds Professor El-Osta.

The need for a cure for diabetes is becoming increasingly urgent as we face a rapidly aging population and the challenges of escalating Type 2 diabetes cases, which are highly connected with increases in obesity,” according to Dr. Al-Hasani, co-author of the study. 

Dr. Al-Hasani says that there are a lot of things to work out before you get to the patients.

“More work is required to define the properties of these cells and establish protocols to isolate and expand them.

“I would think therapy is pretty far away, however, this represents an important step along the way to devising a lasting treatment that might be applicable for all types of diabetes.”

Prof. El-Osta, Drs. Al-Hasani and Khurana have devised a new approach to rejuvenate insulin cells without the typically linked ethical problems with embryonic stem cells.

Image Credit: Getty

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