|A team transformed stem cells into beta cells, which |
produce insulin to regulate blood sugar.
In a study published in the journal Cell, a team transformed stem cells, which have the potential to develop into a range of different cell types, into beta cells, which produce insulin to help regulate blood sugar. These cells were then inserted into diabetic mice, whose blood sugar was observed over a few months.
Results showed that the manipulated cells functioned as normal beta cells and were not attacked by the immune system, which is what usually happens in diabetics. The cells had a noticeably fine-tuned response to sugar levels in the blood, and six months later, the mice’s blood sugar remained under control. This is a huge breakthrough that could help free diabetics from daily insulin injections.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that affects over 34 million people worldwide. The disease causes the body’s immune system to destroy the beta cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. Patients with type 1 diabetes rely on daily insulin injections to keep their blood sugar under control. But the injection does not provide the fine tuning needed to control metabolism and, as a result, patients can experience nerve damage, blindness, and loss of limbs. Currently, the only known treatment for the disease is a beta cell transplant, which uses cells from someone who has died. The complicated nature of the procedure means that it is only available to a very small number of patients, who must remain on immunosuppressive drugs forever.
The insulin -producing beta cells are currently being tested in other animal models, including non-human primates. The next step in the development of a cure will be to research how to protect the 150 million cells that will be transplanted into each patient from immune system attack.
Watch how beta-cells are made in the video below: