Researchers have found that MANF protects and stimulates in the rodent model the proliferation of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Pancreatic beta cells produce insulin in order to control blood glucose levels. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells die due to the misguided attack of body's own immune system. One of the main goals in type 1 diabetes therapy is to develop drugs for functional beta cell proliferation and regeneration as insulin is only able to alleviate diabetic symptoms.

The collaborative team headed by the University of Helsinki Professors Mart Saarma from the Institute of Biotechnology and Professor Timo Otonkoski from the Biomedicum Helsinki studies the therapeutic potential of neurotrophic factor MANF in type 1 diabetes.

The indication for MANF to be a candidate therapeutic factor for diabetes came from Dr. Maria Lindahl´s work. She showed that mice lacking MANF became diabetic because the beta cells in pancreas were progressively dying.

“We previously found that MANF protects and stimulates proliferation of beta cells in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes. MANF seems also to be essential for the survival and function of beta cells. Our aims are to study the potential for  MANF to be used to regenerate the lost β-cell mass in diabetic patients. This would restore normal metabolic control and avoid the severe, life-threatening complications resulting from diabetes,” Project Manager Lindahl says.

The team uses for example rodent and human pancreatic islets, human beta cell-like cell-lines, stem-cells, and rodent models of diabetes in the research.

The collaboration team has for the third time been awarded a research grant by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The $ 495,000 grant is for two years. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the leading global foundation funding type 1 diabetes research.