Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Diabetes-in-a-Dish

Figuring out why insulin-producing cells are destroyed in type-I diabetes

09 September 2019

Diabetes-in-a-Dish

In type 1 diabetes, cells of the pancreas that would normally produce the hormone insulin – β cells – are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Patients with this type of diabetes therefore need a life-long supply of insulin to stay healthy. Researchers are trying to figure out what causes these β cells, which reside in areas of the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans, to be killed, such that one day the inconvenience and invasiveness of frequent insulin doses might be replaced with a cure. To this end, tissue engineers are growing pancreatic islet cells (pictured stained purple) with supporting networks of blood vessels (green) in the laboratory. By comparing such islets grown from patient cells with those from healthy cells, researchers will gain clues as to the molecular mishaps causing β cell destruction and, hopefully, ways to stop it.

Written by Ruth Williams

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