Blum B, Roose AN, Barrandon O, Maehr R, Arvanites AC, Davidow LS, Davis JC, Peterson QP, Rubin LL, Melton DA. 2014. Reversal of β cell de-differentiation by a small molecule inhibitor of the TGFβ pathway. eLife. 3:e02809. Pubmed: 25233132 DOI:10.7554/eLife.02809


Dysfunction or death of pancreatic β cells underlies both types of diabetes. This functional decline begins with β cell stress and de-differentiation. Current drugs for type 2 diabetes (T2D) lower blood glucose levels but they do not directly alleviate β cell stress nor prevent, let alone reverse, β cell de-differentiation. We show here that Urocortin 3 (Ucn3), a marker for mature β cells, is down-regulated in the early stages of T2D in mice and when β cells are stressed in vitro. Using an insulin expression-coupled lineage tracer, with Ucn3 as a reporter for the mature β cell state, we screen for factors that reverse β cell de-differentiation. We find that a small molecule inhibitor of TGFβ receptor I (Alk5) protects cells from the loss of key β cell transcription factors and restores a mature β cell identity even after exposure to prolonged and severe diabetes.

Related Faculty

Photo of Lee Rubin

Lee Rubin investigates the key molecular mediators of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, with the ultimate goal of finding effective preclinical therapeutic candidates.

Photo of Doug Melton

Doug Melton is pursuing a cure for type 1 diabetes. His lab studies the developmental biology of the pancreas, using that information to grow and develop pancreatic cells (islets of Langerhans). In parallel, they investigate ways to protect beta cells from autoimmune attack.

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