Diabetes: The Activation Of A Specific Gene Transforms Cells Into Pancreatic Beta Cells Secreting Insulin


When Cells Become Alpha Beta
Diabetes type 1 is characterized by loss of pancreatic beta cells that produce the hormone insulin. Find how to restore these cells and their function is a major concern of scientists. With activation of a specific gene called Pax4, a team of Franco-German (1) has succeeded in transforming some cells in pancreatic beta cells secreting insulin. This work has been published in the scientific journal Cell (reference below).

The type 1 diabetes is a disease affecting one in three hundred and is characterized by loss of pancreatic beta cells synthesize the hormone insulin. It follows a rise in blood glucose which is conventionally treated by daily injections of insulin. However, because of variations in blood glucose caused mainly by food intake and physical activity, significant vascular complications can occur with time and result in amputation, blindness or even death. It is therefore necessary to find alternatives to treat type 1 diabetes.

A single gene, called Pax4, can change alpha cells, on left, into insulin-producing beta cells, on right, in lab mice.

In this context, by using a mouse model, researchers from Inserm showed they can literally transform some cells of the pancreatic alpha cells called beta cells synthesize the hormone insulin. This approach involves the forced activation of a single gene called Pax4 in all alpha cells. The results also demonstrate that alpha cells are continually reclaimed and converted into beta cells, leading, in this case, a massive increase number of beta cells. These are functional and can handle a type 1 diabetes induced chemically.

It is important to note that although these results were very promising obtained in mice and now need to be validated in humans.
"If these findings are confirmed in humans, then we would have an abundant source of cells in the body converts beta cells producing insulin. We would then discover how to force, but also control, conversion of it chemically "
(1) team led by Patrick Collombat (Inserm Unit 636 "Genetics of normal and pathological development") and Ahmed Mansouri (Max Planck Institute - Germany)
Article: The Ectopic Expression of Pax4 in the Mouse Pancreas Converts Progenitor Cells into Subsequently α and β Cells
Authors: Patrick Collombat, Xiaobo Xu, Philip Ravassard, Beatriz Sosa-Pineda, Sebastian Dussaud Nils Billestrup, Ole D. Madsen, Palle Serup, Harry Heimberg and Ahmed Mansouri
Journal Publication: Cell
Source: Inserm


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