Cyclin D3 added to protein cocktail may cure diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have discovered a cocktail of molecules that grows human beta cells that could possibly cure diabetes. Scientists found a cocktail of molecular ingredients that stimulate the growth of insulin producing beta cells. A new finding from researchers shows adding cyclin D3 to other proteins boosts replication of beta cells. The newest finding could possibly cure diabetes.

Senior author Andrew F. Stewart, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Pitt School of Medicine says, "Our team was the first to show that adult human beta cells can be induced to proliferate or grow at substantial rates, which no one thought possible before. Now our effort has been to unravel these regulatory pathways to find the most effective strategy that will allow us to treat – and perhaps cure – diabetes by making new insulin-producing cells."

The research team previously discovered a combination of the regulatory molecules cdk4 or cdk6, combined with a variety of D-cyclin proteins, stimulates human beta cell replication in test tubes. Surprisingly, the protein cyclin D3, previously not known for its role in beta cell physiology, greatly increased beta cell replication.


Nathalie M. Fiaschi-Taesch, Ph.D., assistant professor of endocrinology and lead study authors explains, "We didn't expect cyclin D3 to ramp up beta cell replication so strongly when it was used with either cdk4 or cdk6. There was no known role for cyclin D3 in human beta cell physiology."

In mice transplanted with human beta cells and engineered to overproduce cdk6, replication of the insulin producing cells was sustained for up to four weeks. Blood sugar levels normalized in diabetic mice with just a small number of transplanted human beta cells. Cyclin D3, added to other proteins, could lead to a cure for diabetes.

The researchers plan to continue their goal of finding the molecular complexities involved in beta cell replication in hopes of finding new diabetes treatment and possibly a cure. The new study showed that one single molecule, cyclin D3, added to a cocktail of other regulatory proteins caused beta cells that produce insulin to grow rapidly. Finding ways to stimulate insulin producing beta cells in humans could lead to a cure for diabetes.