Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have made new discoveries about diabetes. It seems that they have been able to stimulate the pancreas to generate new beta cells to produce insulin, which means that diabetes could be treated in the future with stem cell therapy.
Diabetes occurs due to exhaustion of pancreas which can not produce enough insulin for glucose metabolism. This is one of the mechanisms of diabetes. Another mechanism is insulin resistance, that is insulin can not cause glucose to enter cells so as to be used as energy. In this way there is a high level of glucose in the blood which in turn lead to serious complications such as ocular complications (diabetic retinopathy) or kidney complications (renal failure). Diabetes can be kept under control through diet (carbohydrate restriction), drugs and sports, but sometimes it is difficult to treat due to low patient compliance. Now researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have made a discovery that could change the fate of patients with diabetes.
There are two ways to create endocrine cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). One method is aimed to create endocrine cells in vitro, while the other is aimed to create endocrine cells by transplanting immature endocrine cell precursors into mice. To create a new treatment for diabetes, the researchers wanted to see the differences between hESC-derived cell populations and primary human endocrine cells. After comparing the structure of DNA in the two cell types, it was found that there is a remarkable similarity between hESC-derived cell populations and primary human endocrine cells. Principal investigator Maike Sander, MD, professor of pediatrics and cellular and molecular medicine, and director of UC San Diego’s Pediatric Diabetes Research Center, said: “This shows that hESCs can differentiate into endocrine cells that are almost indistinguishable from their primary human counterparts.”
Even so, researchers found that compared to primary human endocrine cells, hESC-derived endocrine cells do not express a number of genes that are essential for insulin production. This finding demonstrates that these cells cannot treat diabetes in laboratory animals. One method that might work, however, is the maturation process, which consists of endocrine precursor cells transplantation into humans. Even though it is not known yet whether the method will have the same success it had in experiments in laboratory animals, researchers now want to stimulate the cells to reach their final differentiated endocrine state using gene manipulation.