Drug Candidate Able To Regenerate Pancreatic Cells

shutterstock_248143375A study led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has identified a potential drug that is able to drive human insulin-producing beta cells to multiply. This may prove to be a potential treatment for diabetes, a disease characterized by a lack of beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone needed to regulate blood glucose levels. The findings are published in the online journal Nature Medicine.

The researchers involved in the said study screen over 100,000 potential drugs. Only one drug called harmine was able to drive the sustained division and multiplication of adult human beta cells in culture. In addition, three groups of mice engineered to mimic human diabetes were treated with the said drug. This treatment resulted in the tripling of the number of beta cells in the treated mice and led to better control of blood sugar level among the three mice groups tested.

According to Andrew Stewart, MD, Director of the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine and senior author of the said study, “Our results provide a large body of evidence demonstrating that the harmine drug class can make human beta cells proliferate at levels that may be relevant for diabetes treatment. While we still have a lot of work to do in improving the specificity and potency of the harmine and related compounds, we believe these results represent a key step toward more effective future treatment of diabetes.”

Loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas has long been identified as a primary cause of Type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is characterized by the immune system attacking and destroying the valuable beta cells by mistake. Researchers have also concluded that a deficiency in functioning beta cells contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, researchers believe that developing drugs that can help increase the numbers of healthy beta cells is important as a potential treatment for diabetes.

Harmine is derived from a flowering plant called Harmal, which is native in many areas in the Middle East as well as some in South America. There is a need to tackle the psychoactive effects of the drug in the brain, which may explain why it is widely used in spiritual ceremonies and as traditional medicine. The research team will be focusing on making changes to harmine and its relative compounds to find potential drug candidates that target only beta cells.

Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center. (2015, March 9). Novel drug candidate regenerates pancreatic cells lost in diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 12, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150309134629.htm


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