Islet cell Proliferation

Human beta - cells are rather unusual in that they do not divide readily in most adults. These cells are able to proliferate very effectively during foetal development and in early childhood but this capacity is soon lost as children grow. This means that, in patients with type 1 diabetes, where many beta -cells are destroyed, any remaining cells are not able to replace the dead or dying cells by increasing their rate of division. We are investigating the factors that control the rate of beta - cell division and have found out that, surprisingly, in some patients with type 1 diabetes, there is an increase in beta cell division but we suspect that this is insufficient to replenish the beta - cell population completely. Our team is now trying to understand how and why beta cell division is re-activated during type 1 diabetes and we hope that, one day, it might be possible to control this process in a targeted way.