Researchers in the United States have started to use uterine stem cells in studies on effective ways of treating type 2 diabetes, that could lead to the development of insulin-producing islet cells and islet cell transplantation for treating diabetics.
Scientists at Yale School of Medicine, whose work was published in the journal Molecular Therapy, converted cells from the uterine lining (or endometrium) into insulin-producing cells. Cells from the uterine lining are a source of adult stem cells, as they can generate tissue every month during the menstrual cycle, as well as being able to split to form other types of cells.
The study involved washing endometrial stem cells in cultures that contained special nutrients and growth factors, which helped them to adopt the characteristics of pancreatic beta cells that produce the hormone insulin.
During a three-week incubation period, the stem cells took the form of beta cells and started to produce proteins that are normally created by beta cells, some of which also managed to produce insulin.
The scientists then exposed the mature stem cells to glucose, showing that the cultured cells responded by producing insulin, before transplanting the insulin-making stem cells into mice with diabetes. The mice with the new therapy were active and did not develop cataracts, although their levels of blood sugar stayed higher than normal. However, the mice that did not receive the therapy continued to have high levels of blood sugar, as well as developing cataracts and being more lethargic.

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