Researchers use zinc to target insulin-producing cells with regenerative drug | 12/6/2018 | Staff
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An insulin injection can manage diabetes symptoms, but actually curing the disease would mean healing cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in blood.

One promising approach may be to stimulate the regeneration of those cells with drugs. But there's a major obstacle: The growth triggered by the drug is willy-nilly, affecting tissues not just in the pancreas but throughout the body.

Team - Stanford - University - Endocrinologists - Chemists

Now, a team of Stanford University endocrinologists and chemists has taken a step toward targeting the right cells more precisely, using a property that researchers have long known about but never exploited for treatment: Beta cells, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, have a particularly strong taste for zinc.

In a study to be published online Dec. 6 in Cell Chemical Biology, Stanford researchers used that fact to selectively deliver a drug to beta cells. Justin Annes, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, is the senior author. Graduate student Timothy Horton is the lead author.

Method - Ready - Use - Stages - Annes

The method hasn't been optimized yet, and it isn't anywhere near ready for clinical use. "We're at the earliest stages," Annes said. But in a field where the main options are insulin injections and insulin pumps, which continuously deliver the hormone through a catheter, it could pave the way to more appealing alternatives.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body can't produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. For years, Annes' goal has been to develop a medication that would promote the regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells. Although some researchers deemed that impossible, Annes and his colleagues recently succeeded in creating specific molecules that make beta cells divide and produce more beta cells.

Advance - Hope - Diabetes - Patients - Catch

That advance might have given new hope to diabetes patients, but there was a catch: The way to get beta cells to start dividing and...
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