Rare benign tumors known as insulinomas contain a complicated wiring diagram for regeneration of insulin-producing human beta cells, which may hold the key to diabetes drug development, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York report. The study, titled "Insights into Beta Cell Regeneration for Diabetes via Integration of Molecular Landscapes in Human Insulinomas," was published as an open-access article on October 3, 2017 in Nature Communications. With the help of an international group of investigators, the Mount Sinai team collected 38 human insulinomas -- rare pancreatic tumors that secrete too much insulin -- and analyzed their genomics and expression patterns. "For the first time, we have a genomic recipe -- an actual wiring diagram in molecular terms that demonstrates how beta cells replicate," said Andrew Stewart, MD, Director of the Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Approximately 30 million people living in the United States have diabetes and nearly 50 to 80 million are living with prediabetes. Diabetes occurs when there are not enough beta cells in the pancreas, or when those beta cells secrete too little insulin, the hormone required to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. Diabetes can lead to major medical complications: heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputation. Loss of insulin-producing beta cells has long been recognized as a cause of type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys beta cells. In recent years, researchers have concluded that a deficiency of functioning beta cells also contributes importantly to type 2 diabetes--the primary type that occurs in adults. Thus, developing drugs that can increase the number of healthy beta cells is a major priority in diabetes research.
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