Examining a protein that protects insulin-producing cells

Key Takeaways

  • New research finds that the C3 protein protects insulin-producing cells from damage and death when it is present inside the cells.
  • The findings may be used in the future to help develop new treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes aimed at protecting insulin-producing cells.

Researchers at Lund University are studying a protein called complement component 3, also called C3, which plays a central role in the body’s immune system. It has long been known that the protein is secreted from cells and is found in large quantities in the blood. Previous work by the researchers showed that C3 is also present inside cells, where it plays an important role. Now, their latest study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the C3 protein protects insulin-producing cells from damage and death when it is present inside the cells. This is important as inflammation of insulin-producing cells is common to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. “Much research on diabetes focuses on trying to understand what happens when the insulin-producing cells are destroyed. We have chosen a different approach that aims to understand what protects the insulin-producing cells,” says Anna Blom, professor of protein chemistry at Lund University, who led the study.

In the long term, the knowledge about C3 can be used to develop new treatments aimed at protecting insulin-producing cells, such as stem cell therapies for treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes. “An objective among many diabetes researchers is to create treatments where stem cells are taken from the patient and converted into insulin-producing cells, which are then transplanted back into the patient. To achieve this, it is important to understand what is needed for the insulin-producing cells to function well,” Blom says. “If we can increase the production of intracellular C3 in these cells, it may help the cells survive longer so that the treatment can be more effective,” says Ben C King, associate professor of inflammation research at Lund University and co-senior author of the study.

Source: Lund University, Medical Xpress, March 21, 2024; see source article