Can Alpha Cells Produce Insulin?
The main job of the beta cells of the pancreas is to churn out insulin, which keeps blood glucose levels down and helps the body absorb nutrients. But in diabetes the beta cells are either destroyed by a wayward immune system (type 1) or unable to keep up with the body's demands for insulin (type 2). To create insulin-producing replacements, researchers reprogrammed alpha cells—another cell type in the pancreas—to behave more like beta cells. In cell cultures, they targeted alpha cell genes with chemicals that successfully jump-started insulin production. The hope is that someday reprogrammed alpha cells may provide an internal source of extra insulin—and better blood glucose control for people with diabetes.
Source: The Journal of Clinical Investigation, March 2013