A new study into sperm stem cells has shown how they can be transformed into the pancreatic cells that generate insulin, and could offer a potential treatment for men with insulin-dependent diabetes .
It is hoped that future therapies from the research could include cells taken from the testicles of men with type 1 diabetes using islet cells grown from their own spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). The scientists from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC also hope that egg stem cells could also be able to change into islet cells and benefit female patients with diabetes .
The research, on diabetic mice, found that the beta islet cells were able to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin to begin to turn around their condition. The scientists ‘de-differentiated’ the SSCs to make them into embryonic-like stem cells, before giving the cells certain nutrients to ensure they developed into beta islet-like cells.
Ian Gallicano, who led the research, said “Transplanted beta islet-like cells don’t need to be producing much insulin to ‘cure’ a mouse with diabetes – this has been done before, using beta islet-like cells derived from other types of adult stem cells; but these have been reprogrammed using genetic manipulatio, which has potential problems.”
He added “We didn’t need to do any genetic manipulation to get the SSCs to become embryonic-like stem cells.” For the study, SSCs were taken from the testes of dead human donors, although there is a lack of suitable donors and there can be a problem with rejection.

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