How loss of cells in pancreas in elderly cause age-related diabetes

DN Bureau

Researchers have looked into the disappearance of pancreatic islet cells in people who have never suffered pancreatitis. Read further on Dynamite News:

Representational Image
Representational Image

Tokyo: Researchers have looked into the disappearance of pancreatic islet cells in people who have never suffered pancreatitis. 

They determined that the loss of insulin-producing beta cells was the primary cause of islet cell loss in the elderly after finding notable trends in the types of cells lost as a result of islet cell loss in different age groups and genders. This may be the underlying cause of diabetes associated with ageing and offers guidance for new preventative treatments.

The pancreas plays a crucial role in controlling blood sugar levels in humans by secreting the hormone insulin. It is one of the most vital organs in the digestive system. Although each component of the pancreas is essential, not all of its parts serve the same purpose.

A deeper examination reveals an intriguing internal organisation, with the hormone-producing (endocrine) cells located in islets of cells named after their discoverer, the Langerhans. 

Since they make up only 1% of all the cells in the pancreas, any alterations to their shape or condition could be a major cause of health issues.

A team led by Professor Shuang-Qin Yi of Tokyo Metropolitan University have been studying the phenomenon of pancreatic islet cell loss (ICL), where voids are observed in these islet regions when observed under the microscope. It was possible for such islets to be surrounded by either healthy cells or lesions, and it remained to be seen what they could teach us about a person's health.

This led the team to undertake a thorough survey of pancreatic sections taken from the cadavers of people with no pancreatic diseases before death, aged 65 to 104. Islet cell loss in healthy populations is something that is rarely studied. The degree of cell loss in each sample was found by observing stained sections from the pancreas under the microscope and analyzing the images.

They focused on trends by age and sex and kept a close eye on the type of cells left in the pancreas, covering the four most abundant cell types, alpha, beta, delta, and PP (pancreatic polypeptide-producing) cells. The team paid extra attention to the number of beta cells, the cells responsible for producing insulin. While there were no notable trends in the other cell types, it was found that the proportion of beta cells in the pancreas seemed to significantly decrease with ICL.

This leads to the conclusion that ICL in the elderly is largely due to beta cell loss in the islets. ICLs also correlated with microscopic lesions in the pancreas known as pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanIN), while severe ICL seemed less likely at more advanced ages.

Curiously, it was found that women tended to be more likely to show severe ICL. The team's findings are consistent with data from the International Diabetes Foundation presented in 2021, which showed that women over 70 had a higher incidence of diabetes than men, while the trend reversed for those under 70.

While other mechanisms for beta cell loss need to be considered, these findings also seem to suggest that the phenomenon of islet cell loss may be a key driver of senile diabetes. This makes interventions which might specifically slow the decrease in the number of beta cells in the elderly a potentially effective route for preventative treatments. (ANI)

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