The ANU is announcing they’ve isolated a complex sugar, heparan sulphate, needed to sustain the pancreas’ beta cells which die off in Type-1 diabetes:
Dr Simeonovic said that their research has shown that beta cells found in the pancreas need heparan sulphate for their survival and without it they die.
“We’ve discovered that replacement of heparan sulphate in the beta cells rescues the cells from dying and prevents them from damage caused by oxidation. This new work has identified heparan sulphate depletion in beta cells as a major cause of beta cell death.
“We attribute this cell death to loss of the beta cells’ normal defence against damage by oxidation caused by free radicals, or highly chemically reactive atoms, molecules or ions.”
The study also revealed that the autoimmune cells in the immune system damage beta cells by producing the enzyme heparanase, which degrades heparan sulphate in beta cells.
Apparently they’ve already set up a spin off company Beta Therapeutics to turn the breakthrough into marketable drugs.