Study tries to pin down beta cell functions to find diabetes biomarkers

Those who suffer from, or study, Type 2 diabetes might know a little about beta cells. Located in the pancreas, they are responsible for producing and releasing insulin. If, for some reason, something goes haywire in the ability of beta cells to function, the result is the body losing its ability to control blood sugar, resulting in diabetes. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health is embarking on a multiyear search for better tools that measure the function of beta cells in the hopes of coming up with better ways of tracking the progression of diabetes.

"Today, diabetes researchers are working without the benefit of agreed-upon standards for gauging beta cell function," Myrlene Staten, one of the project's leaders, said in a release. "We anticipate this initiative will give researchers practical tools that can be used to measure beta cell function over time and stimulate research to maintain and improve that function."

The project is called "Diabetes Drug Development: Identification and Validation of Markers that Predict Long-Term Beta Cell Function and Mass," managed by the Metabolic Disorders Steering Committee of the FNIH Biomarkers Consortium. It's a three-year, $5.1 million clinical study to standardize tests for measuring beta cell function in the clinical setting.

"One of the next frontiers of diabetes therapeutics is to change the progression rate of beta cell failure," David Fryburg, project team leader, said in the release. Biomarker validation to measure diabetes progression should go a long way toward developing better medicine to treat and prevent it, said Steven Paul, acting chairman of the Biomarkers Consortium Executive Committee.

- read the release from the Biomarkers Consortium