Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers discover mechanism that could convert certain cells into insulin-making cells

02.05.2011
gs of UCLA study hold promise for fight against diabetes

Simply put, people develop diabetes because they don't have enough pancreatic beta cells to produce the insulin necessary to regulate their blood sugar levels.

But what if other cells in the body could be coaxed into becoming pancreatic beta cells? Could we potentially cure diabetes?

Researchers from UCLA's Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center have taken an important step in that direction. They report in the April issue of the journal Developmental Cell that they may have discovered the underlying mechanism that could convert other cell types into pancreatic beta cells.

While the current standard of treatment for diabetes — insulin therapy — helps patients maintain sugar levels, it isn't perfect, and many patients remain at high risk of developing a variety of medical complications. Replenishing lost beta cells could serve as a more permanent solution, both for those who have lost such cells due to an immune assault (Type 1 diabetes) and those who acquire diabetes later in life due to insulin resistance (Type 2).

"Our work shows that beta cells and related endocrine cells can easily be converted into each other," said study co-author Dr. Anil Bhushan, an associate professor of medicine in the endocrinology division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and in the UCLA Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology.

It had long been assumed that the identity of cells was "locked" into place and that they could not be switched into other cell types. But recent studies have shown that some types of cells can be coaxed into changing into others — findings that have intensified interest in understanding the mechanisms that maintain beta cell identity.

The UCLA researchers show that chemical tags called "methyl groups" that bind to DNA — where they act like a volume knob, turning up or down the activity of certain genes — are crucial to understanding how cells can be converted into insulin-secreting beta cells. They show that DNA methylation keeps ARX, a gene that triggers the formation of glucagon-secreting alpha cells in the embryonic pancreas, silent in beta cells.

Deletion of Dnmt1, the enzyme responsible for DNA methylation, from insulin-producing beta cells converts them into alpha cells.

These findings suggest that a defect in beta cells' DNA methylation process interferes with their ability to maintain their "identity." So if this "epigenetic mechanism," as the researchers call it, can produce alpha cells, there may be an analogous mechanism that can produce beta cells that would maintain blood sugar equilibrium.

"We show that the basis for this conversion depends not on genetic sequences but on modifications to the DNA that dictates how the DNA is wrapped within the cell," Bhushan said. "We think this is crucial to understanding how to convert a variety of cell types, including stem cells, into functional beta cells."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S. — 8.3 percent of the population — have diabetes.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Helmsley Trust funded this study.

Additional co-authors of the study are Sangeeta Dhawan, Senta Georgia, Shuen-ing Tschen and Guoping Fan, all of UCLA.

The Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA, established in 2004, is the first center dedicated to the study of the Islets of Langerhans, which include the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. An understanding of the causes of islet cell destruction is key to finding a cure for diabetes. The center's faculty members, recruited from around the world, provide leadership in the worldwide fight against the disease. The center is made possible through a grant from the Larry Hillblom Foundation, established to support medical research in the state of California.

Enrique Rivero | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>