After years of trying, researchers finally were able to transform human stem cells into mature cells that produce insulin. In the long term, this can cure people with diabetes. It can change the lives of millions of people worldwide with type 1 diabetes. For the first time, according to a study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, American researchers have successfully transformed human stem cells into mature cells that produce insulin in the laboratory.
This success is the result of many years of work. The cells produced were trapped in an immature stage where they could not respond adequately to blood glucose and secrete insulin according to Matthias Hevrock of the San Francisco Diabetes Center, the author of the study. Then he and his team realized that the key to success is the neglected aspect of beta cell development, the physical process by which cells are separated from the rest of the pancreas and form the so-called Islets of Langerhans.
Then the researchers reproduced this process in the laboratory, artificially separating the stem cells from the pancreas and transforming them into groups of islets. As a result, beta cells and other cells delta and alpha cells began to react to glucose as mature insulin-producing cells.
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The researchers then transplanted these islets into healthy mice and found that they worked for several days, producing insulin that reacts to blood sugar levels just like the natural islets in life animals.
According to Matthias Hevrock now they can produce insulin cells that look and act like the pancreatic cells that we have in our body. This is a big step towards our goal of creating cells that can be transplanted into diabetic patients.
Complications associated with type 1 diabetes can be fatal.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of all diabetes cases worldwide. It is an autoimmune disease that occurs most often in childhood and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Without the insulin that regulates blood glucose levels, sugar peaks can cause severe organ damage and even death. Although the disease can be treated with regular insulin injections, some people still suffer from acute or chronic complications due to poor blood glucose control. These include retinopathy, neuropathy, heart disease, lower limb arteriopathy and renal failure. These complications can be fatal. Therefore, diabetics who are at risk of death may now receive pancreatic transplants which in most cases will be in addition to kidney transplants.