Glucose may fuel growth of beta cells in pancreas

A new study in mice has found that as glucose is metabolised, it triggers beta cells to regenerate.

“It’s not blood glucose per se that is the signal, but the glucose-sensing capacity of the beta cell that’s key,” says Professor Yuval Dor, one of the study’s authors. 

The researchers used a genetic technique to kill 80% of beta cells in one group of mice.

Those mice regenerated more beta cells than the non-diabetic mice. The researchers then tweaked various steps in the glucose metabolism pathway within the beta cell to identify the mechanism. 

In one experiment they transplanted beta cells into other parts of the mice to keep their blood sugar normal so the surviving cells in the pancreas didn’t have to work as hard. 

Regeneration rates slowed in those mice. In another experiment they removed glucokinase from the beta cells – causing regeneration to plummet.