An Australia-based study from Monash University in Melbourne this month has claimed a “major breakthrough” in Type 1 diabetes treatment protocol as researchers restored insulin expression in the damaged pancreas cells of a deceased 13-year old child by using a cancer drug.
Published in The Nature’s “Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy” journal, the researchers took pancreatic cells with classic signs of silencing of the insulin-producing cell progenitor genes with barely detectable insulin. The drug, GSK126, which is not authorised for Type 1 diabetes and is a cancer remedy otherwise, was used in the cells, resulting in the expression of core insulin-producing cell markers. It was also found to reinstate insulin gene expression despite absolute destruction of the insulin-producing cells.
The study has essentially discovered a novel pathway to the regeneration of insulin in pancreatic stem cells. Using the pancreas stem cells of the Type 1 diabetic donor, researchers were able to effectively reactivate them to become insulin-expressing and functionally resemble beta-like cells through the use of a drug. In principle, this means that the said drug will allow insulin-producing cells (beta-cells) that are destroyed in Type 1 diabetics to be replaced with newborn insulin-generating cells.
The authors claim that this discovery can translate to a major breakthrough in new therapies to treat Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, especially leading to a potential treatment option for insulin-dependent diabetes.