A newly discovered mechanism behind reduced insulin production in type 2 diabetes is now being presented. In an article published online on June 6, 2017 in Nature Communications, researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden describe how insulin-producing cells regress in their development, become immature, and do not work properly—a finding that opens the doors to new clinical treatments. “If you can affect things at the cellular level and restore the body’s own rapid regulation, you can more accurately adjust blood sugar compared to what is possible with insulin injections,” says Anders Rosengren, Associate Professor who is active at the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology as well as the Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine at the University of Gothenburg. It has long been known that the insulin-producing cells fail in type 2 diabetes. The body does not get enough insulin and blood sugar rises. One theory argues that the insulin-producing cells become fewer in number, while another argues that their function is impaired. The new explanation, which combines the debated theories, states that the insulin-producing cells regress in their development and become immature. This reduces the number of functional cells. The open-access Nature Communications article is titled “Sox5 Regulates Beta-Cell Phenotype and Is Reduced in Type 2 Diabetes.” With the help of 124 tissue samples, of which 41 were from people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers were able to determine which genetic changes in the cells affected the course of the disease the most. Dr. Rosengren describes the analysis by comparing it to the world of air travel.
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