In the phase leading up to full-blown diabetes, beta cells go into overdrive, churning out ever more insulin in a futile attempt to redistribute the glucose flooding the bloodstream. But the frantic pace of production takes its toll on the beta cells, which eventually give up and perish.
At least that’s what most diabetes researchers thought.
So when Domenico Accili’s postdoc showed him some surprising data that suggested that the cells were still alive, he was skeptical, but curious. Maybe conventional wisdom was mistaken.
“When unexpected observations emerge, Mimmo has the intellectual horsepower to realize they shouldn’t be dismissed as mistakes or artifacts,” says Rudolph Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. “Instead he proposes ways to nail down their relevance.”
It took two years of work, but Accili’s lab has completely changed the way scientists think of beta cells: The cells are alive, and they may be capable of resuming insulin production.
Click here to read more about Dr. Accili’s beta cell research and how it could transform treatment, in the 2013 Annual Report of Columbia Medicine (full issue below).