Beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin. Their death is a key feature of Type 1 diabetes, and that loss starts long before diagnosis. However, there has been no straightforward way to measure that early loss.
Anath Shalev, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham now have identified an early biomarker of Type 1 diabetes-associated beta-cell loss in humans — microRNA-204, or miR-204.
“Serum miR-204,” Shalev said, “may provide a much needed novel approach to assess early Type 1 diabetes-associated human beta-cell loss, even before onset of overt disease.”
MicroRNAs are found in animal and plant cells, where they help control gene expression. In previous work, Shalev found that miR-204 plays key roles in regulating insulin production and other critical beta-cell processes.
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