Exchanging alpha cells for beta cells to treat diabetes

Exchanging alpha cells for beta cells to treat diabetes

IMAGE: On the left is a healthy islet with many insulin-producing cells (green) and a few glucagon-producing cells (red). On the right, this situation is modified in a diabetic island with a strong preponderance … view more

Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Blocking cellular receptors for glucagon, the counter-hormone in insulin, has cured mouse models of diabetes by converting glucagon-producing cells into insulin-producing cells, a team led by UT Southwestern reports in a new study. The results, published online in PNAS, may offer a new way to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in people.

More more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, a disease characterized by loss of beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells make insulin, a hormone that cells need to absorb and use glucose, a type of sugar that circulates in the blood and serves as cellular fuel.

In type 2 diabetes, tissues in the body develop resistance to insulin, which causes beta cells to die of exhaustion by secreting excess insulin to allow cells to absorb glucose. In type 1 diabetes, which affects about 10 percent of the diabetic population, beta cells die from autoimmunity …

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