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  • Adipose Tissue. Fat tissue. Scientists have recently discovered that adipose tissue acts as an organ which secretes hormones that are important for regulating hunger and satiety, and energy utilization.

  • Apoptosis. Sometimes called cell suicide, this is a process of programmed cell death which is an essential part of normal life.

  • Autoimmunity. An abnormal state in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys certain types of their own normal, healthy cells. In Type I diabetes, autoimmunity destroys the beta cells that produce insulin.

  • Beta (b) Cell. The specialized cell in the pancreatic islets which produces and secretes insulin.

  • Bridge-1 A newly discovered gene whose protein product is a co-activator of the insulin gene and may function to boost beta cell insulin production.

  • DNA chips. These are arrays of 10-20,000 gene fragments arranged on the surface of a glass chip. They can be used to identify which genes are being expressed at any given time.

  • Genotype. The complex of genes within an individual. Inappropriate combinations may result in disease expression.

  • GLP-1. (Glucagon-like peptide) This hormone, originally discovered at MGH, is produced in the intestine in response to meals. It enhances the secretion of insulin and has recently been found to stimulate the development of beta cells from stem cells.

  • Hedgehog Proteins. These signaling proteins regulate gene expression in embryonic development. One member of this family of proteins also controls the expression of IDX-1, the master regulator of beta cell development.

  • IDX-1. A gene which acts as a master regulator of the pancreas. Without this gene, the pancreas does not develop and it plays a key role in beta cell development.

  • Immunomodulation. A non-specific term indicating some intervention targeted at white blood cells (lymphocytes). In the novel treatment which cured diabetic mice, immunomodulation prevented the regeneration of autoimmune T cells.

  • Insulin receptor. When insulin binds to its receptor, which is found on the surface of many cells, including liver, muscle, and fat, it activates a complex cascade of events. As a result of this process glucose transporter proteins move to the cell surface and facilitate the entry of glucose into the cell.

  • Insulin resistance. This is a phenomenon of poor response to insulin. If sufficient insulin is produced, the individual can maintain normal blood glucose levels, but if insulin secretion is insufficient, the result is Type 2 diabetes.

  • Ketone Bodies. Produced when fat is utilized for energy.

  • NOD mice. Non-obese diabetic mice. This strain of mice develops autoimmune diabetes which is an excellent model of human Type 1 diabetes.

  • Nucleotides. Basic building blocks of genes.

  • Pancreatic islets. Clusters of cells within the pancreas that contain beta cells and other hormone producing cells.

  • Stem cells. Unspecialized cells which have the capability of developing into many different kinds of cell. They were first discovered in embryos but scientists have recently found them in many kinds of adult organs.

  • T cells. These are specialized cells of the immune system which bind to the MHC proteins, and initiate an immune response when they encounter protein fragments that are foreign to them.

  • Transcription Factors. These factors control the expression of DNA, switching genes on and off according to the needs of a cell.

 
   
 
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