Stem cell research has recently provided both English and American teams with dramatic early-stage breakthroughs. Another new finding by Burnham Institute and UCSD scientists could hold still further potential to reduce the dependence of diabetics upon drugs, or perhaps even cure diabetes altogether.
The results, published in the March issue of the journal Nature Medicine, describe a method whereby ordinary cells in the pancreas can be tweaked to become insulin-producing beta cells. Most diabetics will know that the disease occurs when beta cells in the pancreas are either destroyed or suffer from impaired performance. Beta cells both form and inhabit pancreatic islet cells.
The process of tweaking non-islet cells to produce insulin had previously been discounted, but following experiments, the US team have created what they are calling a ‘new way of thinking.’ Their discovery came after cells covered with pancreatic fetal tissue were prompted into becoming beta cells.
The experimental method, which in time may have a function for both type 1 diabetes and the larger type 2 group, is currently years away from human trials. Experts involved in the study called for the need to isolate what part of fetal-tissue cells provoked the pancreatic cells into producing insulin.

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