Cells In The Gut Can Be Reprogrammed Into Insulin-Producing "Beta-Like" Cells

Inducing a cell that does not normally produce insulin to function like a beta cell is an attractive concept for the regeneration of lost beta cells in T1D, particularly in individuals at late stages of the disease where little or no beta cells may remain. Certain cells lining the gut are an attractive target for reprogramming into beta cells as both cell types arise from a common cell during development and both contain glucose-sensing machinery. Additionally, gut lining cells, unlike beta cells, are rapidly regenerated and continually produced throughout adulthood. This study investigated whether the gut lining cells in mice could be induced to become beta cells. To stimulate the transition, they removed a gene known to play a key role in cell fate determination, from the gut lining cells. The gut cells that lacked this gene began to express insulin and function as beta cells  restoring normal glucose control in diabetic animals.

Reference:

Talchai, C, Xuan, S, Kitamura, T, DePinho, RA and Accili, D. (2012). Generation of functional insulin-producing cells in the gut by Foxo1 ablation. Nature Genetics 44,406412.

Ramifications for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes:

This early work suggests that cells in the gut of mice can be induced to produce insulin and behave like beta cells when a key gene is removed. Further work will be required to determine if human cells possess the same ability and if the change can be effected with more therapeutically-relevant manipulations.

JDRF Involvement:

None.