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A longstanding problem in the effort to create replacement cells for diabetic patients has been solved by scientists at the Salk Institute. The team uncovered a hidden energy switch that, when flipped, powers up pancreatic cells to respond to glucose, a step that eluded previous research.
The finding results in the production of hundreds of millions of lab-produced human beta cells able to relieve diabetes in mice.
For more than a decade, scientists across the globe sought to replace failing pancreatic beta cells linked to immune destruction in children (type 1 diabetes) or obesity-associated diabetes in adults (type 2 diabetes). Although cells made in a dish were able to produce insulin, they were sluggish or simply unable to respond to glucose.
Previous lab findings do not tell the complete story of how the diabetes drug metformin works to limit the level of glucose in the blood, suggests a Mayo Clinic study. Researchers there found that metformin does not actually limit the action of the hormone glucagon, specifically glucagon-stimulated glucose production from the liver.
Metformin’s action is typically involved with the release of glucose from the liver.