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Bacteria-killing protein may help pancreas regenerate, produce insulin

In rats, researchers found those prone to diabetes had low levels of the protein, and it appeared to increase the organ's regeneration when injected into the rats.
By Stephen Feller   |   Feb. 24, 2016 at 1:25 PM

OTTAWA, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A bacteria-killing protein may help the pancreas regenerate and produce insulin, and could be used to treat diabetes, according to scientists.

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute found the protein cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP, is produced by the same pancreatic cells that produce insulin, and helped insulin production in the pancreas when using it to treat mice.

While the researchers at OHRI work primarily on type 1 diabetes research, they said the new understanding of CAMP's effects in the pancreas could help treat patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

CAMP is a family of polypeptides found in immune cells that kill bacteria. While bacteria can be both good and bad, they are generally not found in the pancreas -- which is why the researchers chose to investigate CAMP's effects in the organ.

"Our study uncovers an intriguing new role for this protein in pancreas function and regeneration, with possible links to diabetes-associated gut bacteria," Dr. Fraser Scott, a researcher at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, in a press release. "We certainly don't have all the answers yet, but our findings raise the exciting possibility of novel treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes."

During the study, published in the journal Diabetes, the researchers found CAMP gene expression was lower in rats prone to diabetes. When the diabetes-prone rats were injected with CAMP, there were signs of increased regeneration in the pancreas and a shift to more beneficial bacteria in the gut.

While the study is promising, Scott said future research needs to be conducted to better understand the link between CAMP and pancreas regeneration, as well how to turn that knowledge into a usable treatment.

"Our study uncovers an intriguing new role for this protein in pancreas function and regeneration, with possible links to diabetes-associated gut bacteria," Scott said, adding, "we certainly don't have all the answers yet."

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