Beta cell biomarker findings may speed diabetes research

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have identified a biomarker for insulin-producing beta cells. Their finding, reported this month in the journal Cell Metabolism, could lead to improved ways to study and treat diabetes.

The researchers demonstrated that human beta cells can be positively identified and separated for laboratory studies from other hormone-producing cells in the islets of the pancreas.

Using an antibody labeled with a fluorescent tag, they showed they could image human beta cells that have been transplanted into mice. This achievement raises hopes for development of a non-invasive way to image human beta cells and monitor the effectiveness of diabetes treatments.

“If someone could measure beta cell mass non-invasively in humans, that would change the way we understand, diagnose and treat diabetes,” said the paper’s senior author, Alvin Powers, MD, the Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center.