Signaling a potential new approach to treating diabetes, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Harvard University have produced insulin-secreting cells from stem cells derived from patients with type 1 diabetes.
People with this form of diabetes can’t make their own insulin and require regular insulin injections to control their blood sugar. The new discovery suggests a personalized treatment approach to diabetes may be on the horizon — one that relies on the patients’ own stem cells to manufacture new cells that make insulin.
The researchers showed that the new cells could produce insulin when they encountered sugar. The scientists tested the cells in culture and in mice, and in both cases found that the cells secreted insulin in response to glucose.
The research is published May 10 in the journal Nature Communications.
“In theory, if we could replace the damaged cells in these individuals with new pancreatic beta cells — whose primary function is to store and release insulin to control blood glucose — patients with type 1 diabetes wouldn’t need insulin shots anymore,” said first author Jeffrey R. Millman, assistant professor of medicine and of biomedical engineering at Washington University School of Medicine. “The cells we’ve manufactured sense the presence of glucose and secrete insulin in response. And beta cells do a much better job controlling blood sugar than diabetic patients can.”
The featured article was originally published by the School of Medicine and written by Jim Dryden. Stem cells from diabetic patients coaxed to become insulin-secreting cells