New research has found a protein that may cause pancreatic cells--the cells that produce insulin--to regenerate. Type 1 diabetes destroys these important cells, making people who live with type 1 diabetes insulin dependent.
Researchers presented findings of a specific agent and a protein which appears to cause regeneration of defunct pancreatic cells at the annual conference of the American Diabetes Association.
This is good news for type 1 diabetics. They are the individuals who have an autoimmune reaction which eventually destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetics are more subject to environmental and lifestyle influences, although many have a genetic disposition for diabetes.
The research is in its infancy. So far, scientists have only studied the protein in mice as the subjects. Autoimmunity, as in cases of type 1 diabetes, means the body attacks itself and causes destructive inflammation. Scientists used lisofylline (LSF) with islet neogenesis-associated protein (INGAP) to work against inflammation and control immune responses. INGAP is a protein in the pancreas which has been shown to cause new cell growth with functional insulin production.
The pancreas is the organ which produces insulin. Insulin drives glucose into the body’s cells, giving the body energy. Without insulin, glucose circulates in the blood without providing the required nourishment to the muscles or brain. Type 1 diabetes progresses rather rapidly; approximately 90 percent of the beta cells that produce insluin need be destroyed before it becomes clinically evident
Type 2 diabetics produce insulin but not enough to overcome insulin resistance in peripheral tissue. These patients do well on oral agents which stimulate the pancreas into greater production.
From what we can see with this one study, there is a great deal of potential when it gets to human trials. Is it around the corner? No. This was one study out of many which will have to be duplicated before the appropriate human dosing and testing may be derived. It does, however, confirm the long-held hypothesis of inflammation and autoimmunity being the root pathology or cause of the disease. In the future, perhaps patients will only need one dose of the medication a month or week or never! We don’t know how long the results will last, nor if it will work on human physiology. However, it certainly gives us hope.