Beta Cell Research

Increasing clinical and genetic evidence points to the deficit of beta cell function and viability as the common denominator and the ultimate cause for the pathogenesis of all forms of diabetes. Hence, a strong emphasis on islet research is critical for the mission of the DZD. An important research field is the protection and production of pancreatic beta cells and pancreatic islets as a whole. Research in in vitro systems as well as in animal models and human islet tissues provide a deep understanding of the molecular mechanism that regulates the viability of beta cells and the production and secretion of insulin. The aim is the identification of new drug targets and the development of functional drug compound screening platforms.

Islet or pancreas transplantation, two procedures that are carried out at the DZD site in Dresden, can cure or at least greatly improve the life quality of diabetic people. However, there is a lack of donors of transplantable cells. In the DZD, three initiatives have been set up to evade this problem:

(1) in situ stimulation of pancreatic regenerative mechanisms,
(2) generation of beta cells for transplantation via the differentiation of precursor cells,
(3) xenotransplantation with insulin-producing cells from pigs

With the establishment of collaborations among partners in the DZD, many of the activities, such as research on stem/progenitor cells to beta cells, animal models of diabetes, and human subjects are being consolidated and rapidly expanding their scope.

Literature

Read more in an overview article by Dr. Peter Hoboth and Prof. Michele Solimena (in German only).