Determining the role of TEL3 in beta-cell identity and fate conversion
Over time, insulin-producing beta cells stop working properly in people with Type 2 diabetes, and it’s thought this is because they lose their identity and turn into other cells. It looks like a key protein, called TLE3, might be involved in keeping beta cells functioning properly. Dr White plans to investigate what TLE3 does in more detail, with the hope that this research could inform the development of new treatments to keep beta cells healthy.
Background to research
In Type 2 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas stop functioning properly as the condition progresses. It was previously thought that this was due to high glucose and fat cells causing the beta cells to die, but it’s now believed that the beta cells may lose their identity and turn into other types of cells. The identity of beta cells is controlled by specific proteins, which help them to function normally and repress any ideas to switch into another type of cell. Recently, a protein called TLE3 was identified as a potential candidate, but how it works exactly isn’t yet known.
This project aims to work out what role TLE3 plays in keeping beta cells functioning normally, and acting like beta cells. Dr White will grow beta cells in the lab, changing the amount and activity of particular proteins (including TLE3), to see what happens. Once he has confirmed the role of TLE3, he plans to subject the cells to high levels of glucose, to see if TLE3 can prevent the beta cells from losing their identity.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
Understanding the biology behind beta cell identity and function could lead to the development of new treatments that can rescue the function of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This could potentially restore normal blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, preventing long-term diabetes-related complications from developing.