Pancreatic tumour discovery could help to regenerate beta cell production

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Pancreatic tumours which produce excess insulin-producing beta cells could help explain how to regenerate insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes.
US scientists report that insulinomas (a rare type of benign tumour) hold the “genetic recipe” for beta cell regeneration, and could help to uncover novel treatment methods for people with diabetes.
Human beta cell regeneration is a difficult task, and within type 1 diabetes there is only one drug, Harmine, known to be able to induce beta cell replication. But there is optimism new drug candidates could emerge as a result of these new findings.
Lead author Dr. Andrew Stewart said: “For the first time, we have a genomic recipe – an actual wiring diagram in molecular terms that demonstrates how beta cells replicate.”
In this study scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY surveyed 38 human insulinomas to understand their genetic makeup. The tumours were small and proliferated slowly and, significantly, researchers were able to map out molecular pictures from the insulinoma and for the normal beta cell.
This, the researchers believe, led them to identify critical differences to understand how to expand beta cell mass in people with diabetes.
Dr Stewart explained: “When you think of tumour genomics, you’re thinking of breast cancer or colon cancer, leukaemia, et cetera. No one is thinking of doing genomics on tumours that don’t really kill people.
“So the real innovation here is that we collected benign tumours that don’t metastasize and don’t cause great harm, and […] that have beta cell regeneration going on in them, as the only reasonable source of genomic information on how to make beta cells regenerate.”
Dr. Dennis S. Charney, another study author, added: “We are excited and gratified by these remarkable results, which reveal an extraordinary array of new and validated pathways for diabetes drug development […] It is truly an exciting set of discoveries for the field of diabetes.”
The findings have been published online in the journal Nature Communications.