The beta cells present in the pancreatic islets or the islets of Langerhans are responsible for creating insulin in the pancreas. The insulin created by the beta cells helps in maintaining the blood sugar levels in the body. An impaired beta cell function can lead to poor or no secretion of insulin which leads to Diabetes. In Type 1 Diabetes, the insulin production is impaired because the immune system destroys the healthy beta cells. In Type 2 Diabetes, the body develops insulin resistance and there is an excess amount of insulin in the body. To compensate that, the body produces more insulin ultimately causing the beta cells to wear out and degenerate.
Until now, Diabetes could only be managed with medications but a recent research study conducted at Icahn School of Medicine in the U.S.A has attempted to find a cure to the condition. The study was intended to find a way to revert the beta cell degeneration in the pancreas. Researchers have found that a chemical named harmine can help the beta cells to regenerate, multiply and in turn have better glycaemic control.
Harmine is naturally found in a flower called harmala. It is also abundant in a traditional concoction named ayahuasca prepared in the Amazon basin. The research study conducted at Icahn School of Medicine had worked over 100,000 drugs to see whether they can lead to beta cell regrowth. Of all the screened drugs, harmine was found to have regenerative properties. Although still under clinical trials, the initial outcomes will prove to be of immense importance as they will change our outlook towards Diabetes.
Source: Nature Medicine