Team coaxes stem cells to produce insulin

Researchers at San Diego-based Novocell have been able to turn embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells capable of producing insulin. Their work points the way to repairing the destruction of cells that create insulin, a condition that causes type 1 diabetes. Observers of the work say they were particularly struck by the efficiency of the conversion of embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells. Novocell Chief Scientific Officer Emmanuel Baetge told The New York Times that his team took the embryonic stem cells and manipulated them with growth factors in a way that mimicked the way the body produces pancreatic cells. That process takes up to three weeks. Novocell says it hopes to launch animal studies on the process in 2008 and begin human clinical trials a year after that.

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