Replacements for some diabetics’ missing insulin-producing cells might be found in the patients’ own pancreases, a new study in mice suggests.
Alpha cells in the pancreas can spontaneously transform into insulin-producing beta cells, researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland report online in Nature April 4. The study, done in mice, is the first to reveal the pancreas’s ability to regenerate missing cells. Scientists were surprised to find that new beta cells arose from alpha cells in the pancreas, rather than stem cells.
f the discovery translates to people, scientists may one day be able to coax type 1 diabetics’ own alpha cells into replacing insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, results when the immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas. People with the disease must take lifelong injections of insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high.