A new interdisciplinary study, backed by a USD5 million grant, will examine how cell therapy research can be used to benefit the treatment of type 1 diabetes . The study, to be led by Maike Sander at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, will be funded by the Beta Cell Biology Consortium (BCBC) in an attempt to generate replacement insulin-producing beta cells from patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells .
With around half of all cases of type 1 diabetes occurring by the age of 20, it is important to find out which factors can cause the autoimmune response that leads to beta cell destruction. It is hoped that a cell-based approach for the treatment of type 1 diabetes can produce a number of benefits in terms of insulin independence and a reduced risk of hypoglycemia .
A key element of Sander’s current research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying how pluripotent stem cells, or progenitor cells, produce the different cell types of the pancreas . Ideally, the team would like to be able to instruct patient-derived pluripotent stem cells to become beta cells.
She said “Right now, scientists can create pancreatic progenitor cells from human embryonic stem cells. However, our goal is to take it a step further and make replacement beta cells from the patient’s own tissue. This grant is a perfect example of collaboration and translational medicine for a greater cause.”

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