Stanford researchers recently discovered a molecular pathway that naturally decreases the number of insulin-producing cells. By activating this pathway through drug injection, the researchers believe that this new discovery may provide a new strategy for fighting diabetes.
The molecular pathway is controlled through a platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor. The PDGF receptor is found to decrease over time in both humans and mice. This decrease is in conjunction with a decline in pancreatic beta cells.
Pancreatic beta cells are responsible for producing insulin, a hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels by signaling when to remove the sugar and store it in other cells. Both Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes are linked to lower numbers of beta cells.
Researchers found that when PDGF receptors were blocked, the number of beta cells significantly decreased, and blood sugar levels increased. However, when PDGF receptors were added, the beta cells in the mice increased.
The researchers found a similar pattern in human beta cells, suggesting the possibility of regulating insulin through the expression of PDGF receptors. By artificially stimulating the receptor pathway, the researchers were able to increase the number of beta cells in mice without affecting the mice’s ability to control its blood sugar levels. This simultaneous ability to increase beta cells without affecting blood sugar levels is a new achievement in research on diabetes treatment.
– Marianne LeVine