Emerging Strategies To Combat Beta Cell Failure in Diabetes

A paper highlighting the diabetes research of Columbia University's Domenico Accili, MD, Russell Berrie Foundation Professor of Diabetes in Medicine, and his research team, was included in the annual report of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). 

The specific research project featured is related to a paper published last September in the journal, Cell. It is one of three scientific features in the 2013 NIDDK Recent Advances and Emerging Opportunities.

More than 250 million people worldwide live with diabetes—the most common form is type 2 diabetes, caused by insulin resistance and progressive beta cell failure. Why do beta cells stop working in people with type 2 diabetes? One widely held theory was that the beta cells died prematurely. Through their research on mice, Dr. Accili’s team showed that beta cells don’t die, rather they de-differentiate, or revert back to a progenitor-like state. The theory is, if something similar occurs in humans, scientists may be able to find ways to coax de-differentiated beta cells to return to their mature, insulin-producing form—suggesting potential new treatments for type 2 diabetes that few scientists had considered before. 

“What’s next?” Dr. Accili was asked last year when his team’s discoveries were first published. “We need to show that these cells are present in the pancreas of humans with diabetes. If they are, then I think this is a real game changer in the way we treat diabetes.”  

Click here to hear Dr. Accili discuss this research project. 


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Dr. Accili in his laboratory at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia