Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine have uncovered a groundbreaking approach to promote the growth of healthy insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, offering hope for individuals grappling with type 2 diabetes—a condition affecting over half a billion people globally.
Their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on September 15, revealed that activating a specific pathway not only increased the population of insulin-producing cells but also enhanced their function, challenging the long-standing belief that proliferation might impair cell performance.
The Challenge of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity, where the body’s tissues become resistant to insulin, hindering their ability to utilize blood sugar.
Simultaneously, the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas deteriorate in both quantity and function.
To address this issue, Dr. Laura Alonso and her team conducted experiments using a mouse model of diabetes that lacked the IRS2 protein—a crucial component in insulin signaling.
These mice displayed insulin resistance, a key characteristic of human type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the IRS2 protein was found to be essential for beta cell function and number, exacerbating the depletion of beta cells in these mice.
Boosting Beta Cell Numbers
To rescue these mice from the dire consequences of beta cell loss, the researchers explored the molecular mechanisms governing cell proliferation.
They observed that in the diabetic mice without IRS2, beta cells failed to increase the production of cyclin D2—a protein that, when combined with CDK4, facilitates cell division.
Previous studies had demonstrated that mice lacking CDK4 also develop diabetes, suggesting a potential avenue for intervention.
To test this hypothesis, the research team introduced an active form of CDK4 into the diabetic mice genetically, making it more available to bind with cyclin D2.
The results were promising: the mice’s blood sugar levels returned to normal, and their beta cell population increased compared to untreated mice with IRS2 mutations.
Quantity and Quality of Beta Cells
Most importantly, the treated mice’s beta cells exhibited remarkable health compared to those of the untreated diabetic mice, whose beta cells had deteriorated significantly.
The enhanced activity of CDK4 resulted in beta cells that were brimming with insulin, demonstrating that increasing beta cell mass did not compromise their functionality.
While CDK4 itself may not be a viable therapeutic target due to potential cancer risks associated with increased proliferation, Dr. Alonso is optimistic that a deeper understanding of the molecular pathways governing beta cell division and function could lead to a clinical breakthrough.
She drew attention to Ozempic, a notable new diabetes treatment that originated from the study of toxins in the saliva of the Gila monster, highlighting how a grasp of fundamental biology can yield advancements in diabetes treatment and prevention.
The research conducted at Weill Cornell Medicine presents a hopeful avenue for individuals living with type 2 diabetes.
By stimulating the growth of healthy insulin-producing beta cells through the activation of a specific pathway, this study challenges conventional beliefs about the relationship between cell proliferation and function.
While the direct targeting of CDK4 may not be feasible, this research lays the foundation for future investigations into the molecular pathways governing beta cell division and function, potentially paving the way for innovative diabetes treatments and prevention strategies.
For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about 5 dangerous signs you have diabetes-related eye disease, and results showing why pomegranate is super fruit for people with diabetes.
The research findings can be found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.
Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.