Sydney, Jan 2 (IANS) A team of Australian researchers are inching closer to regenerate insulin in pancreatic stem cells and replacing the need for regular insulin injections, developing a cure for millions of people with diabetes.
The team from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute demonstrated that the newly-made insulin cells can respond to glucose and produce insulin following stimulation with two US Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs in as little as 48 hours.
Further, in the paper, published in the Nature scientific journal, they confirmed this pathway of awakening the insulin-producing cells is viable in age groups from 7 to 61, providing much-needed insights into the mechanisms underlying the regeneration of beta cells.
Using pancreatic cells derived from a child and adult type 1 diabetic donors, and from a non-diabetic person, the team led by Professor Sam El-Osta demonstrated how insulin-producing cells that are destroyed in people with type 1 diabetes can be regenerated into glucose sensing and functionally secreting insulin cells.
While current pharmaceutical options for diabetes treatment help control blood glucose levels, they do not prevent, stop, or reverse the destruction of insulin-secreting cells.
The novel therapeutic approach holds the potential to become the first disease modifying treatment for type 1 diabetes by facilitating glucose responsive insulin production by harnessing the patient’s remaining pancreatic cells, thereby enabling people living with diabetes to potentially achieve independence from round-the-clock insulin injections.
More than 530 million adults are living with diabetes worldwide, and that number is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030. This disease-modifying treatment also represents a promising solution for the significant number of people living with insulin dependent diabetes.
The development of novel pharmacological therapies aimed at restoring pancreas function addresses the stark reality of donor organ shortages.
"We consider this regenerative approach an important advance towards clinical development," Professor El-Osta said.
"Until now, the regenerative process has been incidental, and lacking confirmation, more importantly the epigenetic mechanisms that govern such regeneration in humans remains poorly understood."
This research shows that 48 hours of stimulation with small molecule inhibitors is sufficient to restore insulin production from damaged pancreatic cells. The next step is to investigate the novel regenerative approach in a preclinical model. The aim is to develop these inhibitors as drugs to restore insulin production in people living with diabetes, the team said.