New starting point for regenerative therapies
There are different types of beta cells in the pancreas. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, together with colleagues from the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) and the Technical University of Munich, have now found a marker that can differentiate between two cell groups: while one produces insulin to keep blood sugar in balance, the other forms a shared pool. The researchers currently report this in the journal Nature.
The scientists found that the protein flattop can serve as a marker for distinguishing beta cells. As the study shows, flattop-positive cells effectively determine the sugar content in their environment and accordingly release insulin into the blood. The flattop-negative cells appear to be a kind of precursor to the metabolically active cells. If necessary, they multiplied up to four times more often than the positive cells.
“With this discovery, we hope to be able to stimulate regeneration therapy in patients with a lack of functional beta cells whose growth or maturation. On the other hand, one can try to promote the maturation of beta cells in the Petri dish via the signal paths “triggered” by Flattop, which is important for cell replacement therapy, but has not yet been completely possible, ”explains Professor Heiko Lickert, Director of the Institute for Diabetes and regeneration research at Helmholtz Zentrum München, who led the study. Original publication: Bader E. et al. (2016). Identification of proliferative and mature β-cells in the islet of Langerhans, Nature, doi: 10.1038 / nature18624