Monday, November 28, 2011

Adults with New Beta Cells

Fact: Many human adults have young beta cells.

When the body needs to be able to make more insulin than it is making, it will sometimes produce new beta cells. Guess what it makes the new beta cells out of?! Alpha cells, usually (alpha cells being neighbors to beta cells, and being responsible for making glucagon).
The human pancreas is generally done growing by the time it's about two years old (two years after birth, that is). Beta and alpha cells may continue to be generated anew until about age thirty, and in unusual circumstances, even later.

The beta cells do not turn into alpha cells in the event that the alpha cells are mostly destroyed source, at least not in mice.

There is currently a debate in medical/scientific/research communities about how much beta cell regeneration in type 1 diabetics matters. The question is: if we can stop the body from killing off new beta cells, can the body make enough new beta cells for it to make a significant difference for the diabetes (or perhaps ex-diabetic)? It seems to me that the answer is a pretty definite no for a lot of type 1 diabetics- the ones in which there is no real evidence of any ongoing beta cell production. It might be yes for others.

1 comment:

Michael Hoskins said...

Thanks for this post, Jonah. It's a very interesting area of research. I'm particularly intrigued by all the Joslin Study participants who've been explored (my mom being one of them) for beta cell activity and what all that means. To me, it almost goes more to the whole prevention issue - if we can find the trigger and stop our bodies from attacking and killing off the beta cells, then we'd essentially have prevented Type 1. Maybe that's the first and most important aspect of "a cure" for future generations. Then, come the next regeneration question that those such as Faustman are studying for what I describe as the second part of a "cure" applied to those already living with Diabetes. We'll see.