The beta-cells of the pancreas are responsible for insulin production and their destruction results in type I diabetes. beta-cell maintenance, growth and regenerative repair is thought to occur predominately, if not exclusively, through the replication of existing beta-cells, not via an adult stem cell. It was recently found that all beta-cells contribute equally to islet growth and maintenance. The fact that all beta-cells replicate homogeneously makes it possible to set up straightforward screens for factors that increase beta-cell replication either In vitro or in vivo. It is possible that a circulating factor may be capable of increasing beta-cell replication or that intrinsic cell cycle regulators may affect beta-cell growth. An improved understanding of the in vivo maintenance and growth of beta-cells will facilitate efforts to expand beta-cells In vitro and may lead to new treatments for diabetes.

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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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