A breakthrough by Melbourne scientists in diabetes could reduce the need for insulin injections

Diabetes researchers say they have made a discovery that could lead to the elimination of the need for daily insulin injections.

A Monash University study published in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy in Nature can lead to the regeneration of insulin in pancreatic stem cells.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In general, people with diabetes do not naturally produce enough insulin, or their bodies do not use the hormone properly. In many people with diabetes, the beta cells cannot produce insulin at all.

“There are many different types of diabetes and it’s a disease that requires constant attention,” said Keith Al-Hasani, a researcher at Monash University and one of the study’s authors.

Type 1 diabetes often occurs when patients are children, Dr. Al-Hasani said, which often means up to five insulin injections a day as young adults become accustomed to the disease. Adult patients may receive up to 100 injections per month to manage pain.

One of the study’s authors, Keith Al-Hasani, says the research could lead to more cost-effective treatments.(ABC News: Rosanna Maloney)

After a 13-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes died, researchers donated pancreatic cells and used the compound to develop insulin.

“We are now reprogramming cells that normally do not produce insulin to express insulin,” said researcher and study co-author Ishant Khurana.

The compound GSK126 is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat other conditions, but has not been used to treat diabetes in Australia or elsewhere.

Dressed in a white lab coat, Dr. Ishant Khurana smiles at the camera.
Ishant Khurana says the team’s work could improve the quality of life of people with diabetes. (ABC News: Rosanna Maloney)

When scientists study stem cells, they don’t genetically modify the cells to get their results.

The authors acknowledge that the potential treatment still has a long way to go before it can be used in humans.

They then want to collect pancreatic cell samples from more people, and then move on to animal testing before they start clinical trials in humans.

According to Dr. Khurana, the ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for daily injections and pancreas transplants.


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