Researchers have found a drug that seems to encourage beta cell division in a laboratory setting, according to a press release from Mount Sinai Hospital.
Out of 100,000 drug candidates screened, the researchers found that the drug haramine could help beta cells multiply in culture. Anything that could help beta cells grow in a lab setting is important, as the insulin-producing cells are notoriously hard to grow. Any practical cure of Type 1 diabetes must include a way to restore beta cells, or at least beta cell function, in the body.
Researchers screened the 100,000 drugs using a sensor created from a firefly gene that would glow if the drug had useful characteristics for encouraging beta cell production. When given to mice, haramine also tripled the amount of beta cells in diabetic mice and helped stabilize their blood sugar levels. The study, which was funded by JDRF and the National Institutes of Health, was conducted by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine.
Scientists hope this study will help provide the beta cell fodder needed to develop better beta cell replacement therapies for diabetes. The research team now must work to tweak haramine so the drug only targets beta cell growth, and not the growth of other cells.
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