New stem cell strategy cures diabetes in mice

A team of investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center was able to turn stem cells used to create sperm into a batch of pancreatic cells able to gin a fresh supply of insulin, moving one step closer to a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

The scientific team, which was led by Dr. Ian Gallicano, found that the stem cells extracted from the testes--spermatogonial stem cells, or SSCs--were easily switched back to an embryonic-like state and then swiftly coaxed to become beta-islet cells found in the pancreas. This isn't the first time researchers have produced cells capable of supplying insulin to mice. But the Georgetown group says that their work demonstrates that they are on a path that can lead to enough insulin needed for a cure in humans.

"No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," says Gallicano. They also have an added advantage: SSCs already have the genes necessary to become embryonic-like stem cells, so they don't need to be manipulated the way other cells do.

These new cells were transplanted into immune deficient diabetic mice, and were able to decrease glucose levels in the mice for about a week--demonstrating the cells were producing enough insulin to reduce hyperglycemia. And the researchers say that a complementary tissue found in women can be used to produce an equally effective diabetes treatment for women.

- here's the release