February 18, 2018 |
Malaria Drugs Found to Convert Alpha Cells to Beta-Like Cells
December 9, 2016  | 

Vienna, Austria – An article published in December’s issue of Cell detailed a potential breakthrough in the study of Type 1 Diabetes and the transdifferentiation of pancreatic alpha (α) cells.

Since type 1 diabetes is characterized by the destruction of insulin-producing beta (β) cells, one of the major focuses in treating the disease is the generation of new insulin-producing cells from other cell types.

The group from the Center of Molecular Medicine in Vienna, led by Stephen Kubicek, isolated pancreatic β and α cells and determined that depravation of Arx, the master regulatory transcription factor in α cells, can induce the conversion of α cells to functional β-like cells.  

The researchers studied the effects of multiple types of drugs and their interaction with α cells and specifically Arx. Their findings were surprising.      

Kubicek and his group determined that artemisinins, a group of drugs commonly used to treat malaria, were capable of repressing Arx by causing its translocation to the cytoplasm of the α cells. They found that the artemisinins target and bind to the protein gephyrin, activating GABAA receptors and limiting the production of glucagon.

The team found results consistent in zebrafish, rodents and primary human pancreatic islets.
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