Diabetes research: Exploring the potential power of growth factors
April 2, 2015 | by Elizabeth Stewart
Diabetes investigators at City of Hope are studying the full trajectory of diabetes and metabolic disorders, as well as complications of the disease. One especially promising approach focuses on proteins known as growth factors. Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., chair and professor of the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers at City of Hope are exploring the use of growth factors to expand insulin-producing beta cells available for transplant in patients with type 1 diabetes. Once transplanted, these beta cells can restore insulin production and reverse diabetes. Among the growth factors of interest is one called gastrin, which is a natural hormone found in the human body. Kandeel’s team has successfully used gastrin to expand human insulin-producing beta cells in the lab and in animals. The next step is to test gastrin’s ability to expand beta cells in humans. Kandeel is currently planning this clinical trial, which he hopes will open early next year.Other efforts to optimize cell therapy as a cure for type 1 diabetes include:Led by
- Testing an approach to image the islet cells after transplantation to observe the efficacy of transplant, as well as the effects of gastrin, and understand how to better support islets once they are in the patient. This research is aimed at making the therapy more effective.
- Continuing to improve the technology of islet transplantation so that islets can be placed in an easily accessible location within the human body, instead of the liver where glucose and toxin levels can cause exhaustion of the transplanted islets. This effort includes the development of hydrogels, which can support islets engrafted in a chosen location within the human body.
- Ensuring that only high quality cells are used in transplant. To do this, researchers have assembled a battery of biomarkers including a gene signature that indicates the quality of islets. Other biomarkers can provide an early signal for any injury to transplanted islets, so that physicians can apply protective interventions.