A chemical produced in the pancreas that prevented and even reversed Type 1 diabetes in mice had the same effect on human beta cells transplanted into mice, new research has found. GABA, or gamma-aminobutryic acid, is an amino acid produced by the same beta cells that make and secrete insulin.
Drs. Gerald Prud'homme and Qinghua Wang of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Sciences of St. Michael's Hospital published a paper in 2011 showing for the first time that GABA injections not only prevented Type 1 diabetes in mice, but even reversed the disease.
A new paper published (Nov. 29) in the December issue of Diabetes shows GABA does the same thing in mice who have been injected with human pancreatic cells.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is characterized by the immune system's destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body makes little or no insulin. The only conventional treatment for Type 1 diabetes is insulin injection, but insulin is not a cure as it does not prevent or reverse the loss of beta cells.
Drs. Prud'homme and Wang also found that GABA vastly improved the survival rate of pancreatic cells when they were being transplanted into mice. About 70 per cent of pancreatic cells die between the time the organ is harvested and transplanted. The researchers said their finding could lead to future research specifically related to pancreatic transplants.