Bigger, better pancreatic cells

cells to grow larger and produce more insulin.

By | October 22, 2001

Transplanted pancreatic cells, including β cells, have been shown to re-establish the production of insulin in the pancreas but unfortunately, the demand for β cells far outweighs the supply. In October Nature Medicine, Robyn Tuttle and colleagues from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, showed overexpression of active protein enzyme Akt1 caused murine β cells to grow larger and produce more insulin — an effect which may have the potential to enlarge the pool of β cells for transplants.

The 3-phosphoinositide–dependent protein kinase Akt is a signaling molecule that mediates the actions of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1. Tuttle et al. created transgenic mice in which a constitutively active form of Akt1 was overexpressed in pancreatic β cells. In these mice they found a significant increase in both β cell size and total islet mass, accompanied by improved glucose tolerance and complete resistance to experimental diabetes.

"The ability of activated Akt1 to antagonize the β cell loss of experimental diabetes has obvious therapeutic implications" suggested the authors. "Since the death rate and the division rate did not change in our mice, it is possible that Akt1 also promotes the growth of new β cells" said Morris Birnbaum the senior author on the paper.

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