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Researchers from Philadelphia have just discovered that beta cells, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, divide, albeit slowly, to make new beta cells. Adult stem cells, which are precursors of new skin, intestines, and other tissues, apparently do not differentiate into beta cells or other pancreatic tissue.
Instead, beta cells replicate themselves, basically functioning as their own stem cells.
Dr. Jake A. Kushner and his team were able to see the process occur by giving rats a sequence of colored dyes in their drinking water. The idea was that dividing cells would be all the same color; that is, the color of the single cell from which they came. The researchers were able to see clusters of beta cells in the pancreas that were all the same color, indicating that one cell had divided into many cells.
In contrast, the colors of cells in the rats' intestine were blended, indicating that they had divided multiple times from specialized cells - possibly from adult stem cells.