Diabetes is caused by the loss of beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Dr. Andrew Stewart, Director of the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine, and colleagues have found that harmine and related compounds regenerate pancreatic cells lost due to diabetes. The discovery was reported in the March 9, 2015, edition of the journal Nature Medicine.
Harmine is derived from a flowering plant called Harmal (peganum Harmala) and is known to have psychoactive properties. Harmine was found to initiate the growth of beta cells at a rate similar to the rate that is seen in children. Normally, beat cells are produced in children at a rapid rate during the first year of life. The beta cells produced should last for a lifetime except for people that develop diabetes.
The scientists have identified the mechanistic and genetic pathways that harmine uses to produce a growth spurt in beta cells. The researchers identified harmine from a catalog of 100,000 potential drugs and compounds that might produce beta cell regeneration. A drug that regenerates beta cells will eliminate insulin therapy.
The researchers proved that harmine works in mice that were genetically modified to have diabetes. The next step in the process is to identify the psychoactive portion of the harmine molecule and produce a compound that has the beta cell regeneration effects of harmine without the psychoactive effects. The manufacturers of insulin for diabetes will probably fight this development with the FDA to protect their profits.
Source – Examiner