DRI Málaga: Exploring the Natural Regrowth of Insulin-Producing Cells
The most recent addition is DRI-Málaga (Spain). Our collaborator there, Dr. Antonio Cuesta-Muñoz, is a leading worldwide expert in Glucokinase (GK), a molecule that is considered the “glucose sensor” of the beta cell. This enzyme instructs the beta cell to secrete more or less insulin according to the concentration of sugar sensed in the blood. Dr. Cuesta has been studying patients who are born with GK mutations, which in some cases causes them to secrete too much insulin.
One of the patients examined by Dr. Cuesta was a girl who had 98 percent of her pancreas surgically removed to correct hypoglycemia, which resulted from this mutation. Amazingly, several years after this drastic operation, the patient leads a normal life with just around 20,000 islets (as opposed to the normal 1 million). Biopsies of her “superislets” reveal that her beta cells are not only more active than typical beta cells, but also replicate safely. These findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, have attracted our interest as a potential strategy to induce islet regeneration - the natural re-growth of insulin-producing cells. We have partnered with Dr. Cuesta-Muñoz to explore this strategy.
DRI-Málaga becomes the 20th member of the Diabetes Research Institute Federation. The size and scope of the Federation, combined with its prioritization of cure-focused research, differs from anything ever assembled in the global medical research community. Federation partners work to accelerate diabetes research using an integrated, translational approach with the goal of bringing promising findings to patients more quickly than ever before.
An image of an enlarged islet taken from a biopsy of the patient.
A normal-sized islet taken from a control subject.