Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which blood glucose levels are elevated more than normal because there are low insulin levels (or no insulin at all) or it does not perform its function. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and its function is mainly to aid glucose in entering the cells so it can be used to produce energy. When there is a lack of insulin or it does not work well, the glucose cannot enter the cells, and it stays on the blood, causing higher levels than normal of glucose. Since glucose cannot be used well for energy because of this, people with diabetes may feel tired even after having a meal.
Fortunately, people with diabetes nowadays have many treatment options. For example, metformin, injectable insulin, glibenclamide, sulfonylureas, among others, are common treatment options, along with having a healthier lifestyle. Nevertheless, more research is being conducted to find more effective treatments. These are great news because even though this disease can be controlled, it officially does not have a cure.
Recently, researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) had interesting results regarding insulin production in pancreatic cells. The pancreas has cells that are called “islet cells”. These cells are divided in other types, being some of them alpha, beta, and gamma. The beta cells are responsible of producing insulin, so what the researchers did, was to modify the alpha and gamma cells so they can also have the capacity to produce insulin. This was achieved increasing the expression of two transcription factors (PDX1 and MafA), which control the genes that code for the production of insulin in beta cells. In mice with type 1 diabetes, the modified cells were transplanted and the researchers found out that the blood glucose levels were under the normal range.
Even though this research has a long way to go and studies have to be done to find out about potential side effects, it still gives us hope that maybe in the future, we could be able to re-program the islet cells to increase the production of insulin and maintain normal glucose levels. At Althian, we have experience with diabetes protocols and we are always looking for new treatment opportunities for those in need. Contact us for more information regarding our experience and we’ll be glad to help.