Scientists in Tennessee have announced an important discovery regarding the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. They found that pancreatic cells that secrete the hormone have the ability to regenerate. This has significant ramifications, particularly for individuals who suffer from diabetes.
In the presence of an important bone-marrow component placed at the location of beta-cell injury, Vanderbilt University diabetes researchers noted a sudden proliferation of these cells, according to The Tennesseean. Their findings appeared in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Beta cells are located in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Their role is to secrete insulin. When they are somehow damaged or destroyed, patients face the prospect of diabetes. The potential implications of understanding how the regeneration of beta cells occurs include curbing the growing rate of the disease in the United States. The results of the research are important to both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
The Mayo Clinic describes diabetes as an umbrella condition that includes a group of disorders that affect how the body uses glucose in the blood, or blood sugar. The human body requires glucose as the source of energy for cells in muscles and other tissues. Blood sugar is the primary source of fuel for the brain.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes, experience too much glucose in the blood because their beta cells have been destroyed or injured and have stopped producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes tends to occur as patients age and put on extra weight. Over time, they become resistant to insulin, and their beta cell functions appear abnormal.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.3 percent of the population — almost 26 million Americans — has one of the two kinds of diabetes. Seven million of them are undiagnosed. Among Americans who are at least 20 years old, the incidence of the illness is about equal in men and in women. In 2012, undiagnosed diabetes had a U.S. price tag of $245 billion.
Grants from the National Institute of Health supported the diabetes research at Vanderbilt.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.