January 13, 2014

Searching for beta cell stimulators

Vanderbilt researchers describe a new technique for identifying factors that stimulate the proliferation of pancreatic beta cells – factors that might offer therapeutic options for diabetes.


The number of individuals with diabetes mellitus – a disease that impacts the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas – is rising. The search is on for chemical and biological factors that stimulate beta cell proliferation and might offer therapeutic options for diabetes.

Existing protocols for screening for such factors are expensive, labor-intensive and require specialized equipment. Rockann Mosser, Ph.D., and Maureen Gannon, Ph.D., have improved existing assays to develop a small-scale screening method for beta cell proliferative factors. Their approach, reported in the December issue of BioTechniques, uses intact mouse pancreatic islets for an initial screening of potential compounds. Then the investigators dissociate and analyze the same islets to confirm beta cell proliferation.

The method uses common reagents and equipment, simplifying the search for beta cell proliferative factors. Because intact islets also contain pancreatic alpha, delta, epsilon and PP cells, the techniques could be used to search for factors that stimulate proliferation of these cell types as well.

This research was supported by grants from the Veterans Administration and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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