A new study out of London and Paris indicates in the developing embryo, beta cells form in the pancreas in response to the presence of glucose. Glucose triggers a gene called Neurogenin3 to switch on another gene, neuroD, which is critical for the normal development of beta cells. If glucose levels are low, the gene doesn’t switch on and the beta cells don’t develop.
The researchers discovered this action of glucose by examining tissues cultured from the pancreases of very young rat embryos. By showing that glucose regulates the formation of beta cells, they are a step closer to figuring out how to create beta cells from stem cells. It’s also possible that their findings may lead to the development of drugs to enhance the action of glucose in encouraging the growth of healthy beta cells.
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Source: Journal of Biological Chemistry