Beta cells in the pancreas are vital as they produce insulin which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
But not all beta cells are the same.
A recent study by Weill Cornell Medicine has revealed that losing a certain type of beta cell can lead to the development of diabetes.
Different beta cell types and their roles
In the study, which was published in Nature Cell Biology, Dr. James Lo and his team discovered four distinct types of beta cells.
Among them, a particular type, named as cluster 1 beta cells, was able to produce more insulin and metabolize sugar more effectively than the other three types.
Loss of these specific cells could possibly contribute to type 2 diabetes.
Previously, all beta cells were considered the same and were counted as such.
However, this research highlights the importance of distinguishing between different types of beta cells, especially these cluster 1 cells, in relation to diabetes.
The Study and its Techniques
The researchers used a technique called single-cell transcriptomics. This technique enabled them to measure all the genes expressed in individual mouse beta cells.
By doing so, they were able to categorize the cells into four types.
These cluster 1 beta cells were unique, having a high expression of genes that helped break down sugar and secrete insulin.
These cells also exhibited high expression of the CD63 gene. This made CD63 protein a marker for this specific beta cell type.
Findings in mice and humans
These cluster 1 beta cells, characterized by high CD63 gene expression, were found to produce more insulin in response to sugar, in both human and mouse beta cells.
In obese mice and mice with type 2 diabetes, the numbers of these high-performing beta cells decreased.
Dr. Lo suggests that this decrease could lead to lower insulin production and contribute to diabetes development.
Implications for Treatment
Interestingly, when the researchers transplanted these high CD63-producing beta cells into diabetic mice, their blood sugar levels returned to normal.
Removing these cells caused a resurgence of high blood sugar levels. On the contrary, transplanting beta cells with low CD63 production didn’t have the same effect.
This discovery may play a significant role in diabetes treatment, especially in beta cell transplants. It may be more effective to transplant high CD63 beta cells.
It might even be possible to transplant fewer of these high-performing cells.
The team aims to understand why these high CD63-producing beta cells decrease in mice with diabetes and how to prevent their loss.
If they manage to keep these cells functional, it could lead to better ways to treat or prevent type 2 diabetes.
They also want to examine how current diabetes treatments impact different types of beta cells, especially in relation to GLP-1 agonists, which help increase insulin release in people with diabetes.
Dr. Lo suggests that these treatments might improve the functioning of low CD63-producing beta cells.
If you care about diabetes, please read studies that not all whole grain foods could benefit people with diabetes, and honey could help control blood sugar.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that blueberries strongly benefit people with metabolic syndrome, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.
The study was published in Nature Cell Biology.
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