Dr. Keith Al-Hasani, in a white lab coat, smiles softly at the camera.

Melbourne-based diabetes researchers’ breakthrough could reduce need for insulin injections

Diabetes researchers say they’ve made a breakthrough that could pave the way to eliminating the need for daily insulin injections.

Monash University research published in Nature Signal transduction and targeted therapycan lead to insulin regeneration in pancreatic stem cells.

Insulin is a hormone produced by what are known as beta cells in the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In general, people with diabetes do not produce enough insulin naturally, or their bodies do not use the hormone as it should. The beta cells in many diabetics are unable to produce insulin at all.

“There are different forms of diabetes and it is a disease that requires relentless attention,” said Keith Al-Hasani, a researcher at Monash University and one of the study’s authors.

Type 1 diabetes generally appears when patients are children, which Dr. Al-Hasani said often means up to five insulin injections per day as young adults adjust to the disease. Adult patients can give up to 100 injections per month to control the disease.

Study co-author Keith Al-Hasani says the research could lead to a cost-effective treatment.(ABC News: Roseanne Maloney)

After the death of a 13-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes, researchers studied donated pancreatic cells and used a compound to stimulate insulin production.

“We are reprogramming cells that do not generally produce insulin, to express insulin now,” said study researcher and co-author Ishant Khurana.

GSK126 has been approved for use to treat another condition by the US Food and Drug Administration, but has not been used to treat diabetes in Australia or elsewhere.

Dr. Ishant Khurana, wearing a white lab coat, smiles widely for the camera.
Ishant Khurana says the team’s work can improve the quality of life for people with diabetes. (ABC News: Roseanne Maloney)

While the researchers studied stem cells, they did not genetically alter the cells to obtain their results.

The authors acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before a potential treatment can be used in humans.

Next they want to collect more pancreatic cell samples from a larger group of people, and then move on to animal trials before they start human clinical trials.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for daily injections and pancreas transplants, Dr. Khurana said.

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