Stem cells used to make pancreas, gut cells

This press release is an announcement submitted by Reuters Health; Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, and was not written by Diabetes Health.


Dec 13, 2010

(Reuters) - Stem cells can be transformed into the pancreatic cells needed to treat diabetes and into complex layers of intestinal tissue, scientists demonstrated in two experiments reported on Sunday.

In one, a team turned immature sperm cells into pancreatic tissue, while another team turned embryonic stem cells into complex layers of intestinal tissue.

Both studies show new ways to use stem cells, which are the body's master cells and which can come from a variety of sources.

A team at Georgetown University in Washington worked with spermatogonial stem cells, master cells that give rise to sperm in men.

Ian Gallicano and colleagues used germ-derived pluripotent stem cells, which are made from the spermatogonial stem cells. They nurtured these cells in the lab with compounds designed to make these cells start acting like pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin.

When transplanted into diabetic mice, these cells produced insulin, acting like the pancreatic beta cells that the body mistakenly destroys in type-1 diabetes, Gallicano's team told a meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in Philadelphia.

Currently, children and young adults diagnosed with type-1 diabetes must take insulin for life.

A few may be treated with the so-called Edmonton Protocol, in which the missing pancreatic cells are transplanted from cadavers. But there is a shortage of these cells and the patients may suffer from graft-versus-host disease if the cells are not a good match.

Gallicano said men's own cells could be used as a source of their transplants, and he said perhaps the approach may work in women too. "While these cells come from the human testis, the work here is not necessarily male-centric," they wrote. "These fundamental aspects could easily be applied to the female counterpart, oocytes."

Separately, James Wells and colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio turned two different kinds of stem cell into complex layers of intestinal tissue.

They used both human embryonic stem cells -- taken from days-old embryos -- and induced pluripotent stem cells -- made from ordinary cells transformed by introducing certain genes.

Both types have the power to give rise to all the cell and tissue types in the body when cultured in the lab like the Georgetown team did.

Writing in the journal Nature, Wells's team showed they could transform these cells into what they called organoids -- batches of intestinal tissue made out of the layers of the various cells that make up intestine, including muscle cells and the cells that line the inside of the gut and that produce several vital compounds.

These organoids can be used to study intestinal diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel diseases and short-gut syndromes and perhaps could be used to treat them someday, Wells's team said.



Maggie Fox, Reuters Health and Science Editor

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Categories: Beta Cells, Diabetes, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Insulin, Islet & Pancreas Transplant, New Cure Research, The Cure, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Biffster on 15 December 2010

Hallelujah! Let's get going on this. I've been Type I for 44 years.

Posted by Anonymous on 16 December 2010

I was diagnosed with diabetes 1 , 5 years ago , and was unaware that stem cell research had anything to do with finding a cure . This is real news to me ! -Sam

Posted by Anonymous on 18 December 2010

biffster - I have been type 1 for 43 years. I feel your pain. But I suspect that you and I will be very low on the priority list when this treatment is rolled out. The youngest type 1s will get it long before we do. I'm happy for them. Yet we will be resting in peace and watching from above as others are saved.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 December 2010

All of this is wishful thinking. The only treatment that will make it bedside is the artificial pump because it's politically safe and backed. All this stem cell stuff is great for text books but will never make it bedside. They have been messing around with this stuff for over 15 years and aren't any closer. Still stuck in a Petrie dish. SmartInsulin has a chance since Merck got behind them but that's it. Those are the only two options. Even all this talk of giving type 1's the designer antirejdcyion drugs won't be approved for use. The FDA will find some excuse or want tons of more 'paper' to proveits safety and efficacy. I have been s diabetic for close to 30 years and the only cure I will find will be in death. It's been around for over 5000 years, it's insidious and we are not smart enough to develop non invasive treatments, much less a cure.

Posted by Anonymous on 7 January 2011

Agreed. I'm sick of hearing about some whoo-hoo discovery on the part of scientists that will never make it to the patients it is supposed to help and never make it out of the lab. There is no money in this for any of the pharmaceutical companies, since a cure would mean they would lose a long term buyer of their drugs, so I doubt funding for the necessary FDA trials and development will ever materialize. I'm glad that this will probably mean more funding for Ian Gallicano and his colleagues (keeping them off the unemployement rolls, of course), but until there is a deliverable cure derived from his research, this is just more salt to rub in the wounds of long-term Type 1 diabetes sufferers, a bone to be dangled in front of a starving dog. And to be honest, I'm sick of the media using the word 'hope' in conjunction with these stories. As far as I'm concerned, 'hope' is just another four-letter word.

Posted by Anonymous on 11 January 2011

As the pharmacutical companies are in business to make money, so are health insurance companies. For those who think "Big Pharma" holds all of the cards, don't cut the insurance companies short. As much money as health insurance companies pay out in diabetis related claims I'd bet they are itching for a cure. With the new "Obamacare," insurance companies are looking for ways to reduce their cost of coverage, all the while maintaining the consumer's price of coverage. Just my $0.02

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