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Beta cells can regenerate under the “right” circumstances
Your beta cells are failing (pre-diabetes) or have failed (diabetes), leaving you struggling to keep sugar levels in check….
But why ?
Why don’t beta cells regenerate ?
It is an interesting question to ponder.
I’ve been asking the question for years. What prompted the pondering was a car accident. Lucky for me, no bones were broken but I was black and blue ALL OVER. And it hurt like crazy ! I watched incredulously as my body put itself back together – every day I got a little better.
It took about three weeks for all the outward signs of the trauma to heal, a little longer for the inner aches and pains to dissipate and a whole lot longer for the fear of driving to subside.
It was then that I wondered………….
Repair and regeneration is NORMAL
The body seems to have the capacity to regenerate – bones knit together, cuts and gashes, close up. How come the pancreas didn’t heal ?
The short answer to this question is probably, the “problem” aka the thing causing the injury, never goes away. Unfortunately, scientists are still not sure what the “thing” is…………. insulin is involved.
Bad body chemistry keeps beta cells from healing.
The feed forward cycle…
Unfortunately “fixing” body chemistry is complicated………
high sugar levels, cause high insulin levels, which cause beta cell destruction, which causes high sugar levels.
Interrupting the loop
Researchers from the University of Southern California, have found a way to regenerate beta cells, naturally. Albeit it, the beta cells they’ve regenerated are mouse beta cells, not human beta cells.
But they did it, without fancy stem cell technology or drugs.
They’ve did it through “diet”.
It’s not what they added to the diet, but what they took away…..
Beta cells missing
The researchers worked with mice, suffering from diabetes.
In one set of experiments, the diabetes was brought on by “bad genes” (similar to type 2 diabetes), in the other set, the beta cells were “poisoned” using streptozotocin (similar to type 1 diabetes).
At the end of the day………… both groups of mice were low on functional beta cells, which left them unable to meet their insulin needs, leading to hyperglycemia.
Fasting regenerated beta cells
When the researchers denied their charges dinner, for a few days, the situation improved, EVENTUALLY.
Actually “starving” caused the beta cell numbers to tank.
This is probably not totally unexpected. When the body is hungry, it makes a plan. The plan involves “eating” bits and pieces from within.
It sounds worse than it is, the initial bits and pieces targeted for energy, are those that are “defective”.
The magic begins when fasting ends………
Refeeding is regenerating
In this study, the fasting window lasted four days. Actually, these mice weren’t even doing a water only fast, they were doing what the researchers call a fasting mimicking diet (FMD for short).
Calories were cut to 10 % of normal ………….protein and carbohydrate calories were severely restricted – this is what mimics fasting.
After 4 days of “starving”, the animals went back onto normal mouse chow – eating as much or as little as they pleased.
It wasn’t a once off fast
And then a week or so later, they once again were made to “starve” for 4 days. The cycles of fasting and feasting continued for 6 – 8 cycles.
But all that “starving” paid off……….
Beta cells snap back to life
The beta cells snapped back to life…………….and pumped out that all important insulin.
This is the data from the genetically diabetic mice.
The top lines (WT AL) shows an islet from a normal mouse, which clearly is making plenty of insulin (stained in red). The db/db mouse is experiencing beta cell failure, so insulin production is pretty close to non-existent, at the start of the study (line 2).
Without any intervention, the few beta cells remaining, disappear (line 3). But when the animal goes on a fasting/feasting cycle (line 4) …………. insulin production is back to normal.
And with it……….. fasting blood glucose and glucose tolerance is NORMAL.
Pretty impressive ?
It’s all about genes
The team confirmed that the appearance of beta cells was due to changes in gene expression. The fasting conditions “inspired” the beta cells to regress to how they behaved when they (and their owners) were babies.
Back in their early days, beta cells loved to divide.
Something they had stopped doing – hence the beta cell failure.
If you’re short of beta cells – what does this mean for you ?
They not GONE forever
In fact, by manipulating your “diet”, you may be able to “inspire” them to start to proliferate…………….and build up their numbers, so they can do their job.
Which is to produce enough insulin to keep your sugar levels in check.
Of course, there are caveats.
Of mice and men
This research has been done on mouse islets, not human islets. They are different.
But…………there have been stories of people who have “starved” and “fixed” their type 2 diabetes. In fact, bariatric surgery, the only medical “fix” for type 2 diabetes, boils down to prolonged “starving”.
It is worth a try and it won’t be easy !
Just remember, the starving sets it up, but the magic happens in the re-feeding. Calorie restriction is NOT the same as fasting.
A pancreas chock full of beta cells is going to be less likely to succumb to diabetes. Genes, lifestyle and …………..BACTERIA shape pancreas development
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Your dustbin men sit tight, when you’re insulin resistant. So cleaning up barely happens. Wastes pile up and this has health consequences – diabetes, CVD, NASH