A recent study involving a previously unstudied gene known as Rfx6 has shown how this gene is necessary for cells to differentiate into insulin-producing beta cells and other cells in the pancreas. This study was led by Michael German, MD, Diabetes Center Clinical Director and the Justine K. Schreyer Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research, and his colleague Constantin Polychronakos, MD, of McGill University.
Dr. German and his team found that mice lacking the Rfx6 gene failed to generate most of the normal cells in the pancreas including the beta cells. They also found in humans that the absence of this gene will cause a complete absence of islets, leading to a rare syndrome of neonatal diabetes in infants. Published in the prestigious journal, Nature, this study provides critically important insights for both beta cell development and insulin production. This discovery may also help create new drugs to regenerate beta cells in patients with diabetes. Stuart Smith, PhD in the German Lab was the lead author of this journal article. This research was funded in part by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.