Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • 12 Tips for Traveling With Diabetes
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter
Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Beta Cells Archives
Print | Email | Share | Comments (4)

Diabetes in a Dish: Steps Toward a Cure

Sep 19, 2009

Pluripotent cells are like embryonic stem cells in that they can be coerced into becoming a variety of different cell types. Once they had induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells, the researchers manipulated them into developing into beta cells (pancreatic islet cells).

By reprogramming skin cells from people with type 1 diabetes, scientists have produced beta cells that secrete insulin in response to changes in glucose levels. Dr. Douglas Melton and his colleagues at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute started by using the skin cells to generate induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Once they had iPS cells, the researchers manipulated them into developing into pancreatic islet (beta) cells.

To reprogram the skin cells into iPS cells, the scientists inserted three new genes into the cells, which "induced" them to become pluripotent.  The word "pluripotent" is derived from the Latin words "pluri," meaning "many," and "potent," meaning "power" or "capacity." Pluripotent cells, like embryonic stem cells, have the capacity to differentiate into a variety of different cell types. 

This achievement, although confined to cells in a dish, is a really big deal because it moves us closer to a cure for diabetes in three ways.  First, the ability to make cells that can become any type of cell in the body, just like embryonic stem cells, adds to our arsenal in the fight against diabetes.  If scientists could use skin cells from a person with diabetes to create islet cells for that same person, the immune system would not necessarily consider the new cells as completely foreign. Consequently, the powerful immunosuppressive drugs usually given after islet transplant may not be necessary. 

Second, creating a "model" of diabetes in a dish-that is, having cells available that respond like beta cells in a person with type 1 diabetes-makes it much easier to test potential new treatments.  At present, researchers must generally use animal models, which do not fully reflect the complexity of the disease.

Third, it is thought that diabetes develops when a person who is genetically predisposed to it encounters an environmental factor that "triggers" its onset. Because these newly created iPS cells are originally from a person with diabetes, the cells should also be predisposed to the disease. This fact might allow them to be used in research to determine triggers and lead to a better understanding of the root causes of the disease.

Consequently, these findings represent a major step forward in our fight to find treatments and a cure for diabetes.  Although this line of research remains in its early stages, it is moving forward.  There is hope.

Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research article


Categories: Beta Cells, Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin, Research, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues



You May Also Be Interested In...


Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Comments 4 comments - Sep 19, 2009

©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.