Beta cell biomarker findings may speed diabetes research

December 3, 2018 by Bill Snyder, Vanderbilt University
Beta cell biomarker findings may speed diabetes research
The team studying a biomarker for insulin-producing beta cells includes, from left, Chunhua Dai, MD, Greg Poffenberger, John Walker, Diane Saunders, PhD, Marcella Brissova, PhD, and Radhika Aramandla. Credit: Susan Urmy

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have identified a biomarker for insulin-producing beta cells. Their finding, reported this month in the journal Cell Metabolism, could lead to improved ways to study and treat diabetes.

The researchers demonstrated that human can be positively identified and separated for laboratory studies from other hormone-producing in the islets of the pancreas.

Using an antibody labeled with a fluorescent tag, they showed they could image human beta cells that have been transplanted into mice. This achievement raises hopes for development of a non-invasive way to image human beta cells and monitor the effectiveness of diabetes treatments.

"If someone could measure beta cell mass non-invasively in humans, that would change the way we understand, diagnose and treat diabetes," said the paper's senior author, Alvin Powers, MD, the Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center.

Due to the small size and location of pancreatic islets, imaging beta cells effectively in patients is currently not possible. Further work is necessary before this approach can be tested in humans, said Powers, former president of the American Diabetes Association.

The antibody, which targets the enzyme NTPDase3, was developed by Jean Sévigny, Ph.D., and colleagues at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, to study enzyme expression in the brain.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt scientists found the enzyme on the surface of pancreatic beta cells. These are the cells that are destroyed or dysfunctional in all forms of diabetes.

In their studies of the pancreatic islet, post-doctoral fellow Diane Saunders, Ph.D., and colleagues discovered that the NTPDase3 antibody targets only beta cells—not other islet cells. They also found it binds just as well to beta cells from people with diabetes as it does to normal beta cells.

This means that normal beta cells labeled with the antibody can be separated from beta cells from individuals with diabetes and examined for differences in their genetic "signatures," Powers said.

These studies may provide clues as to why, in type 1 , beta cells are attacked and destroyed by their body's immune system, a process called auto-immunity.

Using and research support provided through the Human Islet Research Network, the researchers also discovered—surprisingly—that NTPDase3 is not expressed in beta cells in humans younger than 1 year old.

"The biology of this protein changes as humans age," Saunders said. "This raises the question that this dynamic period early in life might be involved in initiating the auto-immune process."

Explore further: Gene tech­no­logy brings more pre­cise in­for­ma­tion on the causes of dia­betes

Related Stories

Gene tech­no­logy brings more pre­cise in­for­ma­tion on the causes of dia­betes

September 13, 2018
The main cause of all forms of diabetes is pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction. Beta cells, found in the pancreatic islets, store and release insulin. Decades of research with animal and cellular models have expanded the knowledge ...

The relevance of GABA for diabetes highlighted in two new studies

April 5, 2018
Dynamic interactions between the nervous system, hormones and the immune system are normally ongoing, but in diabetes the balance is disturbed. Two studies published in EBioMedicine by an international research team from ...

Pancreatic islets study may spur diabetes treatment advances

September 22, 2017
Investigators in the Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (VDRTC) and collaborators at Stanford University have discovered new insights into the molecular mechanisms of cell proliferation in juvenile human pancreatic ...

New potential target for treatment of diabetes

July 25, 2018
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have discovered that one of the building blocks in the calcium channels in the pancreatic beta cells play an important role in regulating our blood glucose values. Treatments aimed at ...

Study identifies immune cells that promote growth of beta cells in type 1 diabetes

September 27, 2013
Joslin researchers have identified immune cells that promote growth of beta cells in type 1 diabetes. This study provides further evidence of a changed role for immune cells in type 1 diabetes pathology. The study appears ...

Scientists study how some insulin-producing cells survive in type 1 diabetes

February 9, 2017
A Yale-led research team identified how insulin-producing cells that are typically destroyed in type 1 diabetes can change in order to survive immune attack. The finding may lead to strategies for recovering these cells in ...

Recommended for you

Researchers study abnormal blood glucose levels of discharged patients

December 14, 2018
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers decided to delve into an area where little data currently exists. They wanted to know what happens after these patients with abnormal blood glucose measurements are discharged? ...

Researchers zero in on potential therapeutic target for diabetes, associated diseases

December 14, 2018
A recent study led by researchers in Texas A&M University's department of nutrition and food science shows how a novel regulatory mechanism serves as an important biomarker for the development of diabetes, as well as a potential ...

Does diabetes damage brain health?

December 14, 2018
(HealthDay)—Diabetes has been tied to a number of complications such as kidney disease, but new research has found that older people with type 2 diabetes can also have more difficulties with thinking and memory.

Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes

December 11, 2018
Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes.

Millions of low-risk people with diabetes may be testing their blood sugar too often

December 10, 2018
For people with Type 2 diabetes, the task of testing their blood sugar with a fingertip prick and a drop of blood on a special strip of paper becomes part of everyday life.

Very low calorie diets trialled by NHS to tackle diabetes

December 7, 2018
Hundreds of thousands of people will receive NHS help to battle obesity and type 2 diabetes under radical action set out by Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.