A neurotransmitter named GABA produced naturally but also available as a dietary supplement, could induce regeneration of insulin producing cells. Tested successfully in mice and partially validated in humans, this discovery brings new hope to patients with type 1 diabetes.
Fight against type 1 diabetes.
This latest work published in the journal Cell is particularly aimed at patients with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a disease characterized by the selective destruction of insulin producing cells, a hormone that reduces the blood sugar level in case of sweet intake. These cells are called pancreatic β cells.
This form of the disease accounts for 5 to 10% of all cases of diabetes. Long asymptomatic, it manifests itself during childhood or adolescence when 80 to 90% of the β cells are already destroyed, due to an autoimmune reaction. Finding how to restore them is a major research challenge because current treatments are not always enough to avoid serious complications.
Modify cells to produce insulin.
Scientists had already shown that it was possible to recreate these β cells by genetically altering cells that resemble them: Glucagon-producing α cells. But this change involved the forced activation of a gene named Pax4 in all alpha cells. But to transpose this discovery to Man, we had to find a compound capable of recreating this genetically induced modification. The first step was important, but it was not possible to act in this way on the genetic heritage of a human being.
But A team of researchers has now demonstrated that this effect could be induced without any genetic modification, thanks to GABA, a neurotransmitter naturally present in the body but also available as a dietary supplement. Concretely GABA is the main neurotransmitter inhibitor of the central nervous system, unlike dopamine or adrenaline which have rather stimulating effects. In the body, GABA is synthesized from an amino acid, glutamic acid. The dietary sources of glutamic acid are cod, soybeans, almonds, cheeses and veal.
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Next trials in humans.
Tested in mice, GABA induced the continuous but controlled regeneration of pancreatic alpha cells and their transformation into insulin-producing cells. The cells thus generated are functional and can treat chemically induced diabetes several times in mice.
In humans, in vitro cell cultures (Langerhans islands that contain both alpha and beta cells) the researchers observed that after 14 days of culture in the presence of GABA, the number of alpha cells Producing glucagon decreased by 37% in favor of a 24% increase in insulin-producing cells.
Finally, by transplanting the equivalent of 500 islets of human Langerhans to the mouse, the same results were obtained by supplementing daily feeding of the mice with GABA for one month.
These results are promising for the likely efficacy of this solution for humans and therapeutic trials will soon be initiated to determine whether GABA could actually help patients with type 1 diabetes.
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[image Source: medscape.com]