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Pancreatic Cells Reprogrammed By Epigenetic Alterations To Secrete Insulin

Epigenetic modification is a change to gene expression or cellular phenotype that is caused by alterations that don’t involve the underlying DNA sequence. Because all cells in your body contain the exact same genes, these help determine which genes different cells express, allowing them to develop specialized functions.

The pancreas consists of -secreting beta cells and glucagon-secreting alpha cells. serves as a signal for cells in the body to take up glucose, while glucagon opposes this effect; malfunction of these cells leads to the development of diabetes. In this issue of the , and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania identified epigenetic modifications that distinguish from alpha cells. Additionally, Kaestner and colleagues found that they could reprogram alpha cells to function as beta cells by mimicking the epigenetic modifications found in beta cells through treatment with a drug known as a histone methyltransferase inhibitor.

These studies suggest that epigenetic manipulation could be used to generate replacement cells for diseases such as diabetes, in which patients lack functional beta cells. In a companion commentary, of Duke University discusses how these cells might serve as an important resource in both research and therapeutic development.

TITLE: Epigenomic plasticity enables human pancreatic α- to β-cell reprogramming

ACCOMPANYING COMMENTARY TITLE: Creating new beta cells: Cellular transmutation by genomic alchemy


Journal of Clinical Investigation