Stem cell research could help to improve diabetes insulin levels

Mon, 18 Jul 2011
Scientists in Israel have made a breakthrough in the use of stem cells from adults that could offer new treatments for people with type 1 diabetes. The research is based on the so-called memories of stem cells to help create insulin-producing cells to replace deficient cells in the pancreas.

As the destruction of pancreatic beta cells leads to diabetes, the researchers have used stem cells to overcome this problem for diabetic patients. However, they are not using the more common embryonic stem cells for this purpose; although embryonic stem cells can be developed in huge numbers in laboratory conditions and can form any cell type in the body, it is not a straightforward job to turn them into pancreatic beta cells.

They preferred to use the more efficient pluripotent stem cells derived from adult insulin-producing cells, as the cells have some understanding of their purpose. Lead author Shimon Efrat commented "When generated from human beta cells, pluriponent stem cells maintain a 'memory' of their origins, in the proteins bound to their genes."

It is hoped the breakthrough will help the development of cell replacement therapy for treating diabetes, and even eventually offer a suitable alternative for organ transplants. The research, carried out at Tel Aviv University and published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, has already been licensed to a company that promotes work on new technology for treating diabetes.
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