Saturday, 13 April 2013

Researcher discovers key factor involved in the production of insulin-producing cells

Senta Georgia, a researcher from The Saban Research Institute (SRI) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles recently released a study in which she has discovered a key factor that is crucial for the proper differentiation of pancreatic stem cells into beta cells, the cells that produce insulin. The discovery has implications in the treatment of Diabetes mellitus type 1 (T1DM).

Beta cells, are cells found in the pancreas with their main role being to store and produce insulin. A deficiency of these cells is what mainly causes T1DM. Georgia, explains that regenerative medicine may hold the key for treating the disease:

“Regenerative medicine has the potential to cure this disease if we can devise a method for using stem cells to make new beta cells” 

In this study, Georgia showed that an enzyme called DNMT1 is crucial for stem cell survival during pancreas formation while the embryo forms. Specifically, the study indicates that DNMT1 represses the expression of the p53 protein which inhibits cell division and activates cell death. By reducing the amount of p53 in models that were DNMT1 deficient , pancreas formation was restored. This indicates that p53 is a key target of DNMT1 in stem cells during fetal development.

Computer generated image of the p53 protein

“The field of regenerative medicine and stem cells has great potential to define new treatments that harness the body’s own developmental and restorative processes to promote healing and undo damage from chronic inflammatory or environmental injuries. The work that Dr. Georgia is pursuing is a perfect example of this new frontier in biomedical investigation and health,” said Brent Polk, MD, director of SRI.

Georgia believes that her discovery may one day be a key component of a permanent treatment for Diabetes mellitus type 1.

Video about Beta cells

Related Posts

Georgia, S., Kanji, M., & Bhushan, A. (2013). DNMT1 represses p53 to maintain progenitor cell survival during pancreatic organogenesis Genes & Development, 27 (4), 372-377 DOI: 10.1101/gad.207001.112

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