Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Diabetes Messengers
08 August 2015

Diabetes Messengers

The immune system is not immune to mistakes. In type 1 diabetes, it wrongly identifies beta cells (large, green) within the pancreas as pathogens. It attacks and destroys these cells, while leaving other cells in the pancreas (small, blue) untouched. Beta cells produce a hormone, called insulin, which stimulates our body's cells to absorb sugar from the blood. If sugar levels dip too low, another hormone, called glucagon (red), stimulates liver cells to release sugar. Diabetic patients can't produce insulin so inject it to manage their sugar levels, but may suffer complications. If doctors could diagnose and treat the condition earlier, they could reduce such complications and extend a patient’s life. Scientists at the MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre have shown that when beta cells die, they release large quantities of a molecule, called microRNA 375, into the blood. A simple blood test could detect this molecule years before symptoms develop.

Find out more about this study, and the Clinical Sciences Centre’s research on pancreatic cells.

Written by Deborah Oakley

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