Despite years of research, type 1 diabetes remains a complex disease without a definitive cure. However, researchers continue to make new discoveries in how the disease develops and impacts the body. This allows for more targeted approaches to treatment. One such recent discovery is pinpointing the mechanism that is believed to be primarily responsible for controlling blood glucose levels in humans.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida have released a study that identifies pancreatic islets as the main control function. Though glucose homeostasis involves the liver, hypothalamus, and pancreas, it is the pancreatic islets which release hormones and insulin that appear to have the most influence in regulation.
Different animals have their own set point of what is a normal blood glucose range, including humans. The researchers transplanted pancreatic islets from different animals into mice with and without diabetes. According to Principal Investigator Per-Olof Berggren, a professor at the Rolf Luft Research Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, “We found that the engrafted islets transferred the glycemic levels of the donor species. This indicates that the pancreatic islets have the overall responsibility for maintaining normal blood glucose levels, making them the ‘glucostat’ in our bodies.”
Human pancreatic islets contain cells that release the hormone glucagon which regulates insulin-producing cells. This is an important discovery when it comes to developing treatment approaches because scientists may find that including these hormone-producing cells in addition to insulin-producing cells when creating artificial islets could be beneficial in better-regulating blood glucose levels.
It is these types of discoveries that enable researchers to develop more advanced and effective options for treating and potentially curing type 1 diabetes. The Diabetes Research Connection supports early career scientists in pursuing novel research projects aimed at diagnosing and treating type 1 diabetes as well as improving quality of life for individuals living with the disease. To learn more about their innovative research and contribute to its advancement, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.