In diabetes, it has been thought that the reduction in functional insulin producing beta-cells occurs mainly by a process of programmed cell death (apoptosis). However, recent studies in rodents have suggested that this may be an over-simplification and that beta cells can also undergo a process of “dedifferentiation” in which they reduce (or lose) their capacity to produce insulin but remain viable within the islets of Langerhan.  This process has been very difficult to study in humans but we are using our biobank of pancreas samples to search for evidence that such dedifferentiation may also occur in type 1 or type 2 diabetes. We are also collaborating with colleagues in Biosciences at Exeter to examine whether the process of beta cell dedifferentiation can be modelled in a simpler organism, the zebrafish, as a means to help us understand what might happen in the human pancreas.




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