An insulin injection can manage diabetes symptoms, but actually curing the disease would mean healing cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in blood.
One promising approach may be to stimulate the regeneration of those cells with drugs. But there’s a major obstacle: The growth triggered by the drug is willy-nilly, affecting tissues not just in the pancreas but throughout the body.
Now, a team of Stanford University endocrinologists and chemists has taken a step toward targeting the right cells more precisely, using a property that researchers have long known about but never exploited for treatment: Beta cells, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, have a particularly strong taste for zinc.
Lead author Timothy Horton is a 2017 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow. Other authors include Hannah Moeller, a 2015 Stanford Graduate Fellow.