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Sunnybrook researchers are pioneering a new approach to treat diabetes

November 14, 2021

100 years after the discovery of insulin, researchers at Sunnybrook are working on a new approach to treat diabetes.

“We’re interested in better understanding why insulin producing beta cells can’t regenerate like other cells,” says Dr. Rob Screaton, a senior scientist in Biological Sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute and an associate professor in The Department of Biochemistry at The University of Toronto.

In patients with type I diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. These cells can’t regenerate when they’re gone, meaning patients need regular insulin injections to replace what they can no longer produce themselves.

“Directing stem cells to become beta cells is an exciting strategy to replace lost beta cells in patients with diabetes, but so far these cells have remained largely unresponsive to glucose,” says Dr. Screaton. “An alternative approach is to encourage beta cells to regenerate again, while suppressing the ongoing immune attack.”

Above, take a look inside the Screaton lab to see how the team is working to identify the pathways that prevent beta cell regeneration, in an effort to develop new treatments or diabetes.

See the results of this research published in Communications Biology