Researchers may have just found a way to restore normal blood glucose levels in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes، which could prove to be a promising solution for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the future.
Researchers have developed a gene therapy that restores normal blood glucose levels in diabetes by reprogramming alpha cells in the pancreas into insulin-producing beta cells. Dr. George Gittes، a professor of surgery and of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania، and team led the study. Their findings were published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Medics Today said.
Type 1 diabetes، a chronic autoimmune disease، affects around 1.25 million children and adults in the United States.
The immune system that usually destroys germs and foreign substances mistakenly launches an attack on the insulin-producing beta cells that are found in the pancreas، which then results in high blood glucose levels.
Over time، type 1 diabetes can have a significant effect on major organs and cause heart and blood vessel disease، damage to the nerves، kidneys، eyes، and feet، skin and mouth conditions، and complications during pregnancy.
Researchers in the type 1 diabetes field have aimed to develop a treatment that preserves and restores function to beta cells، which would، in turn، replenish insulin، responsible for moving blood glucose into cells for energy.
One barrier to this solution is that the new cells that arise from beta cell replacement therapy would likely also be destroyed by the immune system.
To overcome this hurdle، the team hypothesized that other، similar، cells could be reprogrammed to behave in a similar way to beta cells and produce insulin، but which are different enough not to be recognized and destroyed by the immune system.
The team engineered an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector that delivered two proteins — Pdx1 and MafA — to the mouse pancreas. Pdx1 and MafA support beta cell proliferation، function، and maturation، and they can ultimately transform alpha cells into insulin-producing beta cells.
Alpha cells were the ideal candidates for reprogramming. They are abundant، similar to beta cells، and located in the pancreas، which would all help with the reprogramming process.
Analysis of the transformed alpha cells showed a nearly complete cellular reprogramming to beta cells.