The important function of beta cell 'hubs' in the pancreas has been presented for the very first time, indicating that diabetes may due to the failure of a few cells that were privileged, as opposed to the behaviour of all cells.
Researchers used optogenetic and photopharmacological targeting to precisely map the role of the cells required for the secretion of insulin.
The team consider the findings, published in Cell Metabolism, could pave the way for treatments that target the 'hubs'.
Dr David Hodson, from the University of Birmingham, described, "It has for ages been surmised that 'not all cells are identical' when it comes to insulin secretion.
Based on the NHS, there are presently 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK, with 90% of those affected having type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes happens when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to operate correctly, meaning that glucose stays in the blood rather than being converted into energy.
Beta cells (β cells) make up around 65-80% of the cells in the islets of the pancreas. Their primary function is to keep and release insulin and, by secreting some of the stored insulin when functioning correctly, can react quickly to changes in blood glucose concentrations.
These findings reveal that just 1-10% of beta cells control islet responses to glucose.
Dr Hodson, who is supported by Diabetes UK RD Lawrence and EFSD/Novo Nordisk Rising Star Fellowships, continued, "These specialised beta cells appear to serve as pacemakers for insulin secretion. We found that when their action was silenced, islets were no longer able to correctly respond to glucose. "
Prof Guy Rutter, who co-directed the study at Imperial College London, included "This study is interesting as it indicates that failure of a smattering of cells can lead to diabetes".
Studies were conducted on samples that were islet from both murine and human cells to find out symptoms of diabetes in men .
The team note that, although findings present a critical step forward in understanding the cell mechanisms, the experiments therefore may not be revealed in vivo, where blood flow direction and other molecule dynamics may affect the function of insulin secretion and the hubs. Get more details at diabetes forums