9. Pancreatic beta cells can be tricked into regenerating
Pathways that regulate beta cell growth can be tricked into regenerating using single-cell RNA sequencing, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
“If we can find a drug that makes beta cells grow, it could improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes,” Maike Sander, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, said in a press release.
“These people often have residual beta cells but not enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels,” Sander said.
Normal beta cells grow through cell division, but beta cells rarely divide themselves. So, the researchers were looking for molecular pathways that could control beta cell growth to find therapies that could help regain blood glucose control.
The researchers discovered that pathways are active when the beta cells divide. They were able to identify molecular features using single-cell RNA sequencing and determine the metabolic activity of single beta cells to find out how their division was different from cells that don’t divide.
“No one has been able to do this analysis because the 1% or less of beta cells that are dividing are masked by the 99% of beta cells that are not dividing,” said Sander. “This in-depth characterization of individual beta cells in different proliferative states was enabled by newer technology. It provides a better picture of what sends beta cells into cell division and clues we can use to try to develop drugs to stimulate certain pathways.”