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Advances in drug discovery for human beta cell regeneration – published online 16/05/2018

Image from Karakose paper

by Esra Karakose, Courtney Ackeifi, Peng Wang, Andrew F. Stewart

Reduced numbers of insulin-secreting beta cells underlie both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Conversely, residual beta cells are present in people with type 2 diabetes, and even after 50 years of type 1 diabetes. The current diabetes armamentarium includes insulin replacement, and drugs that encourage residual beta cells to secrete more insulin and/or enhance sensitivity to insulin. Beta cell replacement, via transplantation of whole pancreas, cadaveric islets, or stem cell-derived beta cells, is another approach. However, as reviewed in this issue by Karakose et al (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-018-4639-6), a simpler and more direct alternative would be to expand the numbers of residual beta cells in people with diabetes. Although human beta cells have long been viewed as terminally differentiated and irreversibly quiescent, this notion is changing owing to the recent discovery of pharmacological tools that can induce adult human beta cells to replicate. The authors review progress in this area, and outline remaining obstacles to bringing these novel therapies to patients. The figures from this review are available as a downloadable slideset.

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