Cells that express neurogenin 3 (NGN3) may one day be harnessed to create a plentiful supply of insulin-producing beta cells for the treatment of diabetes, a study led by researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) suggests. NGN3 is the master gene driving development of the human endocrine pancreas, including the beta cells that make and secrete the hormone insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels. In type 1, or juvenile, diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells are generally destroyed by the person's immune system, and patients need insulin injections to survive. Patients with the more common type 2 diabetes, referred to as adult-onset diabetes, typically produce at least some insulin but their bodies cannot use it properly, and they often require extra insulin. In a study published on August 19, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the Children's Research Institute, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and the University of Illinois at Chicago, detected the NGN3 protein in histologically normal pancreatic biopsies from two sources -- cadavers and patients requiring biopsy for diagnostic purposes. The PLOS ONE article is titled “Neurogenin 3 Expressing Cells in the Human Exocrine Pancreas Have the Capacity for Endocrine Cell Fate.” "NGN3 expression in the adult pancreas was unexpected, because it cannot be detected in the adult rodent pancreas - only during fetal development," said the study's principal investigator Michael Shamblott, Ph.D., an Endowed Chair of Pediatrics at the Children's Research Institute, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, whose research focuses on regenerative cell therapies to replenish the insulin-producing cells destroyed or damaged by diabetes.
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