Diabetics could soon produce their own insulin

Scientists have made a huge breakthrough in the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes by generating insulin-producing stem cells. In a study published in the journal Cell, a team of Harvard Researchers 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. “You never know for sure that something like this is going to work until you’ve tested it numerous ways,” said Doug Melton, the lead researcher of the study in a press release. “We’ve given these cells three separate challenges with glucose in mice and they’ve responded appropriately; that was really exciting.” 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. Melton has been determined to find a cure for diabetes ever since both of his children developed the disease at a very young age. His 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. Melton is collaborating with Daniel Anderson, Goldblith professor of applied biology at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, to develop a device, which can be implanted in the patient to protect the cells. Anderson said in the press release that the research being done by Melton is, “An incredibly important advance for diabetes. There is no question that [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the] ability to generate glucose-responsive, human beta cells through controlled differentiation of stem cells will accelerate the development of new therapeutics. In particular, this advance opens to doors to an essentially limitless supply of tissue for diabetic patients awaiting cell therapy.”

Science Alert, 11 October 2014 ;http://www.sciencealert.com.au ;[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]