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Find out the latest news about JDRF's research and fundraising events.

Displaying regeneration


Scientists discover molecules that control insulin production

Some of JDRF’s most exciting research is exploring how to regenerate the cells which no longer produce insulin in people with type 1 diabetes. By working together with the pharmaceutical company Roche, JDRF-funded scientists have announced two new discoveries; a protein that controls how insulin-producing beta cells grow in the pancreas, and a chemical that can encourage this growth.

The study, which was led by Dr Markus Stoffel, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, builds on a discovery made just five years ago. Dr. Stoffel and his team first showed that a previously unknown protein, called Tmem27, is situated on the surface of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Through tests conducted on mice, they found that increasing the levels of Tmem27 on beta cells meant that the number of beta cells increased.

After screening possible molecules that might be destroying the Tmem27 protein in people who develop type 1, Dr. Stoffel and his team found the culprit: Bace2. This is an enzyme that, like Tmem27, also resides on the outer surface of the beta cell. The researchers found that mice lacking Bace2 had larger islets and that their beta cells were actually regenerating. 
Dr. Stoffel and his team next aimed to stop Bace2 from being active in an effort to control and promote the growth of beta cells. To do so, they teamed up with scientists at Roche who developed a chemical compound that could inhibit Bace2. When the scientists gave this compound to mice, they saw that it stopped Bace2 and stimulated the growth of new beta cells. Importantly, this means that Bace2 can control the Tmem27 protein, suggesting the potential for developing a Bace2 inhibitor as a new diabetes therapy. 
This is exciting research, and the findings mean there is potential for a drug to be developed that promotes the growth of beta cells in people with type 1. Visit the research section on our website, to find out more about JDRF beta cell research.


JDRF scientists identify key trigger for beta cell regeneration

JDRF-funded researchers have identified a key signal that prompts existing insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to form new beta cells in mice. This breakthrough may help researchers find new ways to increase the number of beta cells in a person with type 1 diabetes.

The study, led by Professor Yuval Dor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published this week in top journal Cell Metabolism, shows that it is the process by which beta cells convert glucose into energy that controls beta cell regeneration.

Researcher Shay Porat said: ‘This means that the more work that beta cells are required to do, the more of themselves they make.’

The five year study used a combination of surgical, pharmacological and genetic research techniques to understand the way glucose is used in beta cells. An enzyme called glucokinase, which triggers the first step in converting glucose to energy, was found to be the trigger that causes the beta cells to replicate.

Because this study showed that regeneration depends on glucokinase levels, rather than glucose levels, researchers may be able to develop targeted drugs to trigger beta cell regeneration.

Dr Eleanor Kennedy, Head of Research Communication at JDRF said: ‘This novel research suggests that existing type 2 diabetes drugs that activate glucokinase could be investigated as a new target for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.’

Regeneration research is among the fastest-growing scientific areas supported by JDRF, aiming to protect and regenerate insulin-producing cells in the body. You can read more about this research on our website.

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