Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Monday, October 8, 2012

High Stress Can Make Insulin Cells Regress

Saige Sunier
October 7, 2012
Core Biology 1 Honors/ C-Block, Ms. Davies

Current Event Report: High Stress Can Make Insulin Cells Regress

Schaffer, Amanda. "High Stress Can Make Insulin Cells Regress." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 Oct. 2012.

            Researchers at Columbia University have been discussing a possible treatment for Type 2 diabetes by fixing the problem at the molecular level. This form of diabetes occurs when your body loses the ability to produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose from the bloodstream to individual cells so it can be used as energy. It was previously believed that these beta cells died, but this new research has shown that the cells do not die; they revert to a “progenitor” state. This means that they change to a form that they would have been in during early development. Dr. Domenico Accili, the director of this research thinks it possible to find a way to restore the beta cells back to their original form and produce insulin. In order to reverse this process the reason for it needed to be discovered. Dr. Accili found that the protein FOXO1 disappeared as the beta cells stopped working. Testing on genetically engineered mice that lacked FOXO1 he was able to discover that when under stress, for example, old age or pregnancy, the mice developed high blood sugar and became Type 2 diabetic. Protein cells that were normally seen during fetal development were also found, leading Dr. Accili to the conclusion that the beta cells were losing their identities. It is not yet clear why this is happening but from this research doctors have been recommended not to push the beta cells of diabetics to produce more insulin but to try and relieve the stress of them. The beta cells are able to change into different types of cell, “why not become beta cells again?” – Dr. Accili. Research continues for the cure to Type 2 diabetes, using these new facts a cure is on its way.

            This research is groundbreaking. Knowing that insulin cells change into an earlier development of themselves gives scientist something to work off of. They were able to conclude that what doctors currently are doing isn't helping and have formed an idea of what needs to be done. People all over the world are personally affected by diabetes, me included. I chose this article because my grandfather has diabetes and I wanted to learn about the work that people are putting into fixing this serious problem. A cure to this disease would improve the lives of millions of people. For those who have it they have to be on strict diets, and if it gets really bad can constantly be suffering from fatigue, blurry vision, hunger, etc. For the people who don’t have it chances are someone it their life does. It is important that there are always scientists out there trying to solve the common problems, improving lives everywhere. The results from this research take us one step closer to finding the cure to diabetes.

            In general I thought this was a well-written article with great points. However, I would recommend that the author, Amanda Schaffer, talk more about the purpose of this research. Diabetes is a topic that affects thousands of people and I think this article would be better with a section explaining what diabetes is and why this research is so important. The article, also did not mention why lacking insulin was bad. The entire article was talking about needing to restore insulin but the author failed to mention why that needed to happen. This article seems more geared towards fellow scientists and not to people who want to learn about diabetes in a simple way. All of the details about the molecular problem were good but adding a simple part would have allowed the article to be understood by greater groups of people. I did like that this article ended on a positive note that the cure to diabetes was a challenge but there were a lot of people working on it, implying that in time we will see an answer.


  1. Owen Balseiro 11/9/12
    Ms. Davies Blog comment
    This truly is a ground breaking discovery, and a giant leap forward in the drive for a cure for Type 2 diabetes. And to finally know why the cells that create insulin, stop creating it is truly ground breaking because so much can be done from here. Three aspects that I liked from this review are how the review states what the author did wrong. For example not saying what diabetes is or what insulin does and what a lack of it can lead to is very important to a reader who wants to learn more about this disease that affects so many people. Another aspect that I found that was good about the review is that it went into detail about how many people this new finding affects and will affect when they finally find a cure for the disease. The final aspect that I liked about the review is the end where sums up the article and makes it much easier to understand. Two things that I learned from the article and its review, were that the cells that make insulin actually regress in their growth. This interested me greatly and I found myself asking what makes the cells regress and how can we change this so that the ells progress. Another thing that I learned is that FOXO1 disappears from the cells as the beta cells stop working, this I found very interesting because why would it just disappear. The only suggestion I have for the writer is to go into detail about what diabetes is and how a lack of insulin affects the body because I for one did not know what affects diabetes had on the body.

  2. Saige Sunier’s report on the article, “High Stress Can Make Insulin Cells Regress,” is definitely a homerun in my book. What I particularly liked about her review was the second paragraph. This section discusses the effect on humanity that the recent study would have. I liked that Saige related the significance of a potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes to her own life on a personal level. In doing so, she explained why she chose this article, mentioning her diabetic grandfather and wanting to know more about fixing this disease. Also in the second paragraph, I was happy with Saige’s choice to touch upon the symptoms of diabetes, showing how this discovery could really affect the lives of many. Lastly, I feel Saige did a good job identifying the different parts of the article that could have been improved. She brought up several points that I had not thought about on how the article could have been better, and I found myself agreeing with all that she suggested. From Saige’s report, I learned quite a bit. Although I have known about diabetes for many years, I had never heard it talked about at the molecular level. Learning about diabetes in such a way was very interesting to me. Equally exciting was the newfound hope for a cure to the disease. While reading, I was genuinely interested and would love to hear a follow up on any advances in this research. There is so much I like about Saige’s report that it is extremely difficult to come up with anything she could change about it. If I had to choose, however, I think it would be nice if at the start, a brief explanation on the function of beta cells was given. Knowing right off the bat that beta cells are what produce the hormone insulin would, in my opinion, make everything else in the summary of the article easier to understand. Overall though, Saige’s review was a job well done.