Salk scientists discover key ingredient to make functional beta cells

Salk Institute scientists claim to have discovered a key ingredient needed to make functional insulin-producing beta cells. The knowledge would be instrumental in realising a dream in Type 1 diabetes treatment: growing replacement beta cells from the patients themselves.

If these replacement cells could be implanted and protected, they would be able to produce insulin as the body needed, much the same way as original cells did. That meant type 1 diabetes would, for the first time ever, be curable.

The ingredient, a protein called ERR-gamma turned up energy production in the beta cells, according to Ron Evans, a Salk researcher who co-led the study with colleague Michael Downes.

These cells were made from artificial embryonic stem cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells. Typically produced from skin, these IPS cells were under examination for their potential to treat a variety of diseases.

Meanwhile, patients with diabetes had shorter lives and suffered longer than those without the disease, say researchers.

According to the new study, type 1 and type 2 diabetes would cut the lives of 50-year-old men and women by more than three years. Furthermore, about 13 of their remaining years will be disability-free, according the new study.

"People with diabetes are spending a significant proportion of life with disability," said lead researcher Dianna Magliano,Health Day reported. She heads the diabetes and population health laboratory at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

"We need to undertake research to understand the mechanisms by which diabetes leads to disability," she added. "This will then help with the development of strategies to prevent disability in diabetes, which in turn may lead to more years lived disability-free."

Meanwhile, at a media round-table organised by Nigeria Health Online recently, to kick off activities marking the 2016 World Health Day in Nigeria, the Minister of Health professor, Issac Adewole, said that diabetes was gradually becoming an epidemic worldwide and Nigeria remained among the countries with a large population of diabetics.