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July 13, 2020

Defect in Pancreas Alpha Cells Linked to Diabetes, Stanford Medicine Study Shows

Pancreatic alpha cells from people with diabetes release excess amounts of glucagon, a hormone important in blood sugar control, in a new Stanford-developed mouse model of transplanted human islets.

In response to low blood sugar levels, pancreatic islet cells from people with diabetes release significantly more of a hormone called glucagon than do islet cells from healthy people, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The discovery was made using a new mouse model of diabetes engineered by Stanford scientists that for the first time permits functional studies of transplanted human alpha cells.

Glucagon is produced by alpha cells in pancreatic islets while insulin is produced by beta cells. Defects of insulin output and beta cells have been thought to be the main drivers of diabetes. The current study, however, supports the growing realization that diabetes is likely due to defects in multiple cell types and highlights the importance of the mouse model to more accurately simulate the complexities of the disease.

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