Scientists Use Rats’ Own Stem Cells to Cure Their Diabetes

Researchers in Japan use adult stem cells to close in on a cure.

Oct 16, 2011

Using stem cells that they extracted from the brains of diabetic lab rats, and turning them into insulin-producing pancreatic cells, Japanese scientists may be on the road to a virtual cure for diabetes that comes from people's own brains.

Led by Tomoko Kuwabara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba Science City, Japan, a team of scientists extracted neural tissue from the rats' olfactory bulbs or their hippocampuses. The former is the part of the brain is involved with smell while the former is involved with memory.

Because of both sites' location in the brain, extraction was easily done through the nose. The rats involved had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The scientists then extracted stem cells from the tissue and applied a human protein to them, Wnt3a, which "switches on" insulin production. After two weeks, the cells had multiplied to the point that the researchers could lay collagen sheets impregnated with them gently on top of the diabetic rats' pancreases.

Seven days later, the concentration of insulin in the blood of all the rats, whether type 1 or type 2, matched that of non-diabetic rats. Blood glucose levels were normal.

The treatment worked successfully for almost five months, at which time the scientists removed the stem cell-impregnated sheets. Once the sheets were removed, the rats reverted to their pre-experiment blood sugar and insulin levels.

Aside from the possibility that patients' own neural stem cells could be used as an incredibly effective therapy, the Japanese scientists noted that the cells did not need to be genetically manipulated. In other experiments with stem cells that have been taken from such parts of the body as the intestines, blood, and liver, researchers had to alter or manipulate them before transferring them to test subjects. The relatively simple addition of Wnt3a, as well as a known antibody that blocks one of the body's built-in insulin production inhibitors, is a straightforward procedure that bypasses those efforts.

The next step is set up experiments to determine if neural cells taken from the same areas of the brain in diabetic humans can be turned into insulin-producing cells, and whether the cells can be applied to human pancreases with the same good results.

The results have been published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine under the article name "Neural stem cells for diabetes cell-based therapy." Access is on a subscription basis.

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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Diabetes Cure, Insulin-Producing Cells, Neural Cells, Research, Stem Cells, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 17 October 2011

Sounds like a potential treatment that one would need to travel outside of the USA because the FDA won't approve its use (IMO). Great story but how did the Rats become type 1 or type 2? Was it natural or were they genetically manipulated? How long will the graphs work? This is years and years away... But its another win for headlines and academia... Academia 1, Bedside 0.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 October 2011

This sounds great! Wonder how long it would be before USA approves and then how long health insurance will take to approve?

Posted by JDCA2025 on 21 October 2011

Interesting. One thing I really like about this study is that it has a specific goal in mind, and knows how it is going to achieve it. I am not entirely comfortable with the prospect of having my brain cells extracted, but I am sure they will come up with a practical way to do it.

One thing it is missing though is a timeline. They can experiment on rats until the end of time, but until we move onto human testing, we are not going to get that cure. We need these studies to start telling us when - even if it is an estimate.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 October 2011

It will take years for the US to allow this( if ever ), because the FDA will likely not approve it. THe medical companys cannot make money if they cure diabetics, or any other ailments etc.

Posted by Anonymous on 31 October 2011

Auto-immune diseases are a gold mine for the drug companies. As well as cancer and HIV.. Sad but true...

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