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Sugar fuels growth of insulin-making cells

Research suggests new strategy for treating diabetes

5:01pm, April 5, 2011

A spoonful of sugar may be a remedy for diabetes. The more glucose that insulin-producing cells in the pancreas use, the faster those cells reproduce, a new study in mice shows.

The findings, published in the April 6 Cell Metabolism, may help researchers devise new treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes by harnessing the mechanism that leads to sugar-fueled cell growth. Such a strategy could help restore function to the cells in the pancreas damaged in diabetes while avoiding the toxic effects of high blood sugar.

Giving animals more food to eat or bathing cells with glucose — the type of sugar that cells burn for energy — can increase the amount of insulin-producing pancreatic cells known as beta cells. But exactly how the sugar increases the number of beta cells has not been clear.

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