Scientists turn skin cells into insulin-producing pancreas cells
Researchers have developed a technique in animal models that could replenish the very cells destroyed by type 1 diabetes, thus taking a step towards freeing patients from the life-long injections that characterize this devastating disease.
'The power of regenerative medicine is that it can potentially provide an unlimited source of functional, insulin-producing beta-cells that can then be transplanted into the patient,' Dr. Ding professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said.
The team at the Gladstone Institutes first collected skin cells, called fibroblasts, from laboratory mice. Then, by treating the fibroblasts with a unique 'cocktail' of molecules and reprogramming factors, they transformed the cells into endoderm-like cells.
Endoderm cells are a type of cell found in the early embryo, and which eventually mature into the body's major organs'"including the pancreas.
The study's lead author Ke Li, PhD said using another chemical cocktail, they then transformed these endoderm-like cells into cells that mimicked early pancreas-like cells, which they called PPLC's.
The research team then wanted to see whether the same would occur in live animal models. So they transplanted PPLC's into mice modified to have hyperglycemia (high glucose levels), a key indicator of diabetes.
'Importantly, just one week post-transplant, the animals' glucose levels started to decrease gradually approaching normal levels,' continued Dr. Li. 'And when we removed the transplanted cells, we saw an immediate glucose spike, revealing a direct link between the transplantation of the PPLC's and reduced hyperglycemia.'
The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
(Posted on 07-02-2014)