A rare, benign tumor that grows in the pancreas may give doctors the tools they need to help people with diabetes make more insulin. These tumors are called insulinomas because they secrete the hormone insulin in excessive amounts. People with diabetes don‘t have enough insulin to cover their bodies’ basic needs for the hormone.
The researchers thought by mapping the genetic makeup of insulinoma tumors, they might come up with the genomic recipe for regenerating the beta cells that produce insulin. And if they could use that “recipe” to make a drug that would trigger the body to make insulin, they could treat — or possibly even reverse — diabetes.
The study’s senior author, Dr. Andrew Stewart, said the researchers have mapped approximately 90 insulinoma tumors at this point, but only 38 were included in the current study. He directs the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Insulin, which is made in the pancreas, is used to usher the sugar from foods into the body’s cells to be used as energy. People with type 2 diabetes are resistant to the effects of insulin, and may not make enough insulin. About 29 million people in the United States have this type of diabetes, which is associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to mistakenly destroy insulin-producing beta cells. People with type 1 diabetes must replace that lost insulin through injections or an insulin pump. Approximately 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.