β Cells Still Functioning in Long-Time Diabetes Patients

Findings suggest preserving, restoring cells might be possible

MONDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Some patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) still have functional pancreatic β cells after 50 years despite prolonged autoimmune and metabolic stress, suggesting that autoimmune stress reduction with stimulation of β cell regeneration could improve insulin production in individuals with diabetes, according to research published online Aug. 10 in Diabetes.

Hillary A. Keenan, Ph.D., of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and colleagues analyzed pancreatic function in 411 Medalists (people who have had insulin-dependent diabetes for at least 50 years) and examined donor pancreases from nine deceased Medalists.

The researchers found that more than 67.4 percent had serum C-peptide levels in the minimal or sustained range, and more experienced a rise in blood glucose levels post-meal than would be expected without insulin. Furthermore, all donor pancreases had active, insulin-producing β cells, some of which displayed signs of cell proliferation and death and autoimmune attack.

"Demonstration of persistence and function of insulin-producing pancreatic cells suggests the possibility of a steady state of turnover in which stimuli to enhance endogenous β cells could be a viable therapeutic approach in a significant number of patients with T1DM, even with chronic duration," the authors write.

Abstract
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