Type 1 diabetes patients retain some ability to produce insulin
GAINESVILLE - As an autoimmune disease, Type 1 diabetes has long been thought to result from a complete immune system killing of the insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreas. Now, University of Florida Health researchers have made a striking discovery: some of the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin may remain for decades in people with Type 1 diabetes.
After studying the pancreata of those with Type 1 diabetes, researchers found insulin levels were low to undetectable among most — an expected finding given the absolute need for insulin therapy for all such patients. However, researchers found the amount of proinsulin, a protein precursor to insulin, were at near-normal levels and comparable to people without diabetes. The researchers also noted a small number of insulin-positive cells remain in pancreata of long-term Type 1 diabetes patients. That observation raised the question of how these cells avoided destruction by the immune system.
These findings, published Sept. 5 in the journal Cell Metabolism, have important implications for questions ranging from why Type 1 diabetes develops to how the disease might be reversed or cured, said Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., director of the UF Diabetes Institute and a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s departments of pathology and pediatrics.
In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin to control the level of sugar in the blood. Elevated and uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to a variety of complications and, if left untreat Continue reading