A research team from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis successfully used human stem cells as cells able to produce insulin.
This important breakthrough may have big implications for more than 420 million individuals worldwide who’re diagnosed with diabetes.
The cells helped control the blood sugar levels in laboratory mice with diabetes.
According to the researchers, the mice had serious diabetes with blood sugar levels higher than 500 mg per deciliter of blood, levels which can be fatal for people.
When the mice were injected with the insulin-secreting cells, in a period of two weeks, their glucose levels normalized and remained stable for months, said the lead of the team Jeffrey Millman, an assistant professor at Washington University.
The New Study Is Based on Previous Research, but Found Something New
The study outlined in the paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology is based on previous research where the scientists discovered how to create these insulin-producing cells from human stem cells.
The new study showed their effectiveness in mice.
Millman explains that the difficulty is in the off-target cells that end up being produced during the conversion. The more off-target cells, the less therapeutically important cells.
He also explained that we need around a billion of beta cells to cure a person from diabetes.
And, if a quarter of the cells we make are liver cells or other pancreas cells, instead of needing a billion, we’ll need 1.25 billion.
The new different method is far more precise and helps better the effectiveness and optimizes the number of cells which produce insulin.
Some of the mice that were used for the research remained diabetes-free for more than 12 months.
Can We Expect this Treatment to Be Used on Humans anytime soon?
This finding will need to be scaled up over a longer period of time before its usage on humans can be established.
The research team hopes to eventually find an automated method to make sufficient cells to give humans the ability to manage their diabetes on their own one day.
The next step of the team is to test their finding on larger animals and for longer period of time.