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New route to insulin-making cells

The pancreas has a second way to make cells that produce the hormone insulin, new research on mice confirms. The discovery could eventually lead to new therapies for diabetics.

Scientists have known that insulin-producing cells, called beta cells, create copies of themselves by dividing. But whether beta cells also arise from pancreatic stem cells has been more contentious.

Many organs contain stem cells that serve as factories, churning out new cells to replace old or damaged ones. But evidence in the past few years has suggested that the pancreas is an exception, and that new beta cells come only from existing ones (SN: 6/2/07, p. 350).

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