Researchers introduce new approach for accurately assessing cell composition in the pancreas

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The research introduces a new DNA methylation-based method to accurately assess cell composition in the human pancreas, addressing an important gap in diabetes research. By overcoming the limitations of traditional protein marker-based methods, the study provides a more precise way to identify specific cell types. The findings provide insight into beta-cell dysfunction across diabetes types and have direct clinical implications, improving our understanding of diabetes development and potentially leading to more tailored treatment strategies. This innovative molecular alternative to immunodetection methods holds promise for broad applications in molecular biology and diagnostics.

Professor Dr. in a study published in diabetes. Yuval Dor from the Hebrew University and his research team have introduced a new method to accurately assess cell composition in human pancreas and islets. The research addresses an important need to understand the origins of diabetes and offers an alternative to traditional protein marker-based approaches.

Current methods rely on the detection of insulin-like protein markers to identify specific cell types in the pancreas. However, the variability of protein content under different physiological and pathological conditions poses a significant limitation, complicating the accurate determination of cell numbers.

The study demonstrates the innovative use of cell type-specific DNA methylation markers to overcome these limitations. By identifying genomic loci uniquely demethylated in specific pancreatic cells, the research team applied targeted PCR types to assess the methylation status of these loci in human islet and pancreas samples. It offers a molecular alternative to traditional immunodetection methods, enabling a precise estimation of cell type composition.

The researchers observed groups of cells in the pancreas called islets. They found that people with different types of diabetes (pre-T1D, T1D and T2D) had similar function of a particular type of cell called beta-cell, but it was lower than in people without diabetes. When they looked at pancreatic tissue from people with recent-onset T1D, they found that beta-cell function was within normal limits, indicating a problem with these cells. In people with T2D, there was another type of cell called alpha-cells, but beta-cell function was normal. This helps us understand how these cells function in diabetes.

The use of DNA methylation-based analysis not only provides a more accurate assessment of cell types in the human pancreas but also proves invaluable in interpreting insulin secretion assays. This approach opens new avenues for understanding pancreatic cell structure in both health and disease.”

Professor Dr. Yuval Dorr, lead researcher

The research was led by graduate students Zeina Droshi, Dr. Agnes Klochendler and Professor Dr. In collaboration with scientists at Hebrew University’s Yuval Dor, Hadassah Medical Center, the University of Florida, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Li Ka Shing Center for Research in Edmonton.


Journal Reference:

Zeina Droshi, Z., etc. (2024). DNA methylation-based assessment of cell composition in human pancreas and islets. Diabetes.

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