April 20, 2015

Boosting beta cells in diabetes

New findings suggest that it might be possible to treat diabetes by regenerating insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

(Wellcome Images)

Promoting the expansion of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas is a desirable treatment strategy for diabetes.

Maureen Gannon, Ph.D., and colleagues previously demonstrated that CTGF (connective tissue growth factor) is required for beta cell proliferation during embryonic development, but that CTGF does not increase proliferation of adult beta cells in normal conditions. The investigators have now tested the ability of CTGF to promote beta cell proliferation and regeneration after partial beta cell mass destruction in mice.

They report in the April issue of Diabetes that CTGF increased beta cell proliferation within two days of treatment, and beta cell mass reached 50 percent recovery within four weeks. They found that CTGF promoted the proliferation of both mature and immature beta cells in vivo and that it increased beta cell replication in whole islets in culture.

The findings suggest that manipulation of CTGF signaling may promote beta cell regeneration and serve as a novel therapeutic approach for diabetes.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DK020593, CA058648, EY008126, RR030956, DK007563, RR024261), JDRF International and a Department of Veterans Affairs Merit Review Award.

Send suggestions for articles to highlight in Aliquots and any other feedback about the column to aliquots@vanderbilt.edu