Two groups of JDRF-funded researchers have identified processes that explain why insulin-producing beta cells lose their ability to regenerate with age. The findings shed light on what regulates normal expansion and decline of those cells—and could help lead to new therapies for type 1 diabetes. Scientists believe that insulin-producing beta cells can regenerate within the body either through adult beta cells replicating or from stem cells in the pancreas. However, the capacity of beta cells to regenerate and adapt diminishes as we age. To better understand the molecular events involved, the two groups focused on a specific cluster of genes known to have a “braking” effect on cell growth. They found key proteins that stop this inhibitory process.
The research, which took place at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and at the University of California, Los Angeles, was published in the journal Genes & Development.