Number of beta cells remains static after age 30: Research

July 04, 2017

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks beta cells. Both genetic predisposition and environmental triggers that are poorly understood have been implicated in the disease development. Disease onset is frequent during childhood but can occur throughout life and requires lifelong insulin injections/pump delivery. The body simply lacks the ability to make insulin. Type 2 diabetes (often called adult onset diabetes) is common in older people whose ability to secrete sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar deteriorates as they age and is often due to increased demand in obese people.

"It could be due to loss of beta cells with age," Buchholz said. "The body doesn't make new ones in adulthood and there might not be enough cells to control blood sugar."

In addition, as the obesity rate increases, the incidence of type 2 diabetes increases and it is now starting to be found in obese children.

Buchholz said there is active research in stem cell therapies to replace lost beta cells for both types of diabetes. "But with these new findings, it isn't clear how easy it will be to get the body to make more beta cells in adulthood, when it is not a natural process," he said. "At the surface, it seems like coaxing the body to do what it does naturally will be easier to accomplish."

Source: DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory