Genetically engineered skin grafts may help towards managing blood glucose levels and body weight in people type 2 diabetes without the need to take injections.
Scientists from the University of Chicago, Illinois, used the gene editing technology known as CRISPR (clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat).
The mice used in the study were fed a diet to induce obesity and type 2 diabetes and then had the skin grafts applied. The skin grafts include progenitor cells which are a type of stem cell that can turn into a particular type of cell. In this case, the progenitor cells were programmed to turn into cells that can release the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).
GLP-1 is widely used in people with type 2 diabetes but currently it needs to be taken by injections. The treatment works by to stimulate insulin after meals and reduce the amount of the blood sugar raising hormone glucagon from being released. Additionally, GLP-1 slows down digestion and works as an appetite suppressant.
The results of the research showed that 80 per cent of the skin grafts were successful and helped to lower blood glucose levels and reduce body weight.
If the new technique is shown to work well in humans, it could allow people to benefit from the effects of GLP-1 medications without the need to take injections.
The researchers used non-genetically engineered mice, referred to as wild type mice by researchers, because wild mice have immune systems that are more likely to be similar to human immune systems. As a result, the researchers can see whether there are any immune responses that they need to be aware of that could affect humans too.
Lead author Dr Xiaoyang Wu explained that the study team used skin grafts because “skin is a tempting target orga, providing a long-lasting, safe, and affordable way to deliver GLP-1 through somatic gene transfer”.
The study is published in the Cell Stem Cell journal.

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