30 November 2013
For Type 1 diabetes sufferers, eating a chocolate bar can be deadly. This is because they lack a protein called insulin, which removes sugar from the blood preventing dangerously high concentrations occurring. The irreversible destruction of the pancreas’ beta cells that produce insulin is to blame, and often means enduring a lifetime of injections to keep sugar levels in check. However, switching off one particular gene can transform different cells into these vital insulin factories. With this gene inactivated, new beta cells (here coloured green) have begun to re-emerge, only four days after they were completely eliminated from this mouse pancreas. In the midst of a global diabetes epidemic that has seen the number of sufferers rise seven-fold over the last 20 years, this new avenue of exploration for potential treatment methods is most welcome.
Written by Jan Piotrowski