Researchers at the University of Bergen (UOB), Europe, have discovered that glucagon-producing cells in the pancreas can change their identity and adapt to do the job for their neighbouring damaged or missing insulin cells.
“We are possibly facing the start of a totally new form of treatment for diabetes, where the body can produce its own insulin, with some help,” says Luiza Ghila, researcher, UOB.
The mechanisms behind the process of the change in cell identity is a response to signals from the surrounding cells. Researchers were able to increase the number of insulin producing cells to 5 percent by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process. “If we gain more knowledge about the mechanisms behind this cell flexibility, then we could possibly be able to control the process and change more cells’ identities so that more insulin can be produced,” said Ghila.
Ghila said that this discovery on the ability of the cells to change identity and function may help find cure for diseases caused by cell death, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cellular damage due to heart attacks.