A group of scientists in Japan says it extracted neural stem cells from the brains of diabetic rats and successfully transplanted them into their pancreases, where they began to produce insulin. This animal study indicates that stem cell therapies like this could provide diabetic patients one day with a virtual cure of the disease--a hot focus in academic research circles.
The neural stem cells were extracted through the nose and then converted into insulin-producing cells by bathing them in a human protein known as Wnt3a and adding an antibody known to block insulin-production inhibitors. The cells were then multiplied to the point where they could be layered on top of the pancreas. In a week the blood glucose levels of rat models with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes were normal.
Significantly, no genetic engineering was needed to produce the desired stem cells, skirting a major safety hurdle. And now the researchers say they want to try this approach in humans.
"As diabetes is caused by the lack of a single type of cell the condition is an ideal target for cell replacement treatments," said Dr. Tomoko Kuwabara of the AIST Institute, who led the team. "However donation shortages of pancreatic beta cells are a major hurdle to advancing this treatment. So a safe and easy way of using stem cells for obtaining new beta cells has been long awaited."
- here's the press release
- get the story from Diabetes Health