Important Step Towards Cure Diabetes Through Embryonic Stem Cells
American researchers have managed to make embryonic stem cells behave as cells of the pancreas can produce insulin. Published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, this study marks an important step in using stem cells to treat diabetes.

Treating diabetes is a promise based on embryonic stem cells, scientists are trying to actually find a formula to transform embryonic stem cells into pancreatic beta cells, these cells produce insulin in response to the presence of sugar in the blood, they are defective or absent in patients suffering from type 1 diabetes. This feat would allow patients to produce insulin again, but researchers have not succeeded so far.

However, Dr. Emmanuel Baetge and colleagues at the biotech company Novocell of San Diego (California) managed to make embryonic stem cells behave like pancreatic beta cells in mice. For years this group has indeed tried, using the same factors that induce pancreas development in the embryo, transform embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells in a petridish. They had previously reported that they were able to obtain insulin-secreting cells but these cells do not respond to the presence of glucose, gold is an essential characteristic of pancreatic beta cells.

The researchers then stepped back and instead of trying to obtain mature pancreatic cells cultured in a petridish, they used cells "immature" still under development. These immature cells called the endoderm are equivalent to cells of the pancreas of an embryo aged 6 to 9 weeks. They transplanted these human stem cells that had not completed their development in a mouse, hoping the animal would produce the missing factors to complete the development of the organ. One month after transplantation the researchers were able to detect C-peptide of human origin (this protein is a derivative of insulin production). Two months after transplantation, the mice increased the production of human C-peptide response to glucose, demonstrating thsat the transplanted cells were indeed functional. Finally the researchers damaged beta cells of mice with a toxin. This treatment usually makes the diabetic mice, except that in this case the mouse does not become diabetic showing that the transplanted cells could replace pancreatic beta cells defective.

Other researchers working in this field readily acknowledge that this study is a breakthrough in the fight against diabetes. Dr. Baetge moreover said that the company Novocell was in contact with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the U.S. authority responsible for regulating food and drug) to determine what additional security tests were needed before proceeding clinical trials on humans.

Dr. Teresa Ku of the Beckman Research Institute in Duarte (California) who also works in this area recognizes that this work is very important in this research field. She said the best solution would be to achieve fully differentiated cells in a culture dish.

Source: ScienceNOW Daily News


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