New Imaging Technique Can Track Beta Cell Status And Diabetes Progression

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Types 1 and 2 diabetes are characterized by progressive β-cell failure. The mechanisms leading to nutrient- and cytokine-induced β-cell death in both types of diabetes share the activation of a final common pathway. However, the measuring of β-cells loss has continued to elude researchers – at least until now.

Swedish researchers suggest that PET imaging may serve as a noninvasive tool to determine the severity of beta cell loss in type 1 diabetes, which could aid disease monitoring and treatment decisions. Using this technique on 10 T1D patients, Dr. Olle Korsgren and his colleagues at the University of Uppsala found that they have lower active beta cell amounts than those without diabetes. In another study of people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers had detected a progressive loss of the amount of beta cells in one person imaged repeatedly over a two-year period.

The PET imaging technique is based on one specific process in the beta cell causes the cells to take up a commonly used imaging radiotracer administered at the beginning of the procedure and reflects amount of alive and active beta cells.

Due to the large variability of the number of beta cells among people with and without diabetes this imaging technique will most likely have no role in diabetes diagnosing.

However, it could become a key tool for tracking the loss of beta cells in a person at risk of T1D and as a faster and more precise way to evaluate the benefit of novel beta cell survival and regeneration therapies.

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