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J Investig Med. 2016 Jan;64(1):14-20. doi: 10.1136/jim-d-15-00196.

Harnessing immune cells to enhance β-cell mass in type 1 diabetes.

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Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Type 1 diabetes is characterized by early β-cell loss leading to insulin dependence in virtually all patients with the disease in order to maintain glucose homeostasis. Most studies over the past few decades have focused on limiting the autoimmune attack on the β cells. However, emerging data from patients with long-standing diabetes who continue to harbor functional insulin-producing cells in their diseased pancreas have prompted scientists to examine whether proliferation of existing β cells can be enhanced to promote better glycemic control. In support of this concept, several studies indicate that mononuclear cells that infiltrate the islets have the capacity to trigger proliferation of islet cells including β cells. These observations indicate the exciting possibility of identifying those mononuclear cell types and their soluble factors and harnessing their ability to promote β-cell growth concomitant with autoimmune therapy to prevent the onset and/or halt the progression of the disease.


Beta cells; Immune cells; Proliferation; Type 1 diabetes

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