Thursday, 13 December 2012

Pancreatic stem cells may be used for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

The findings of a new study from Australian researchers, may pave the way for a real treatment of Diabetes type 1, in which diabetic patients won't  have to take insulin injections. The paper describes how pancreatic stem cells were isolated and turned into insulin-producing cells in an animal model. The researchers are from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria.

First, the paper describes how the scientists identified and isolated pancreatic stem cells using specific markers from adult mice. That wasn't an easy task, as these cell comprise less than 1 % of the pancreatic tissue. Afterwards, the stem cells were cultured and given several growth factors and hormones which transformed them into insulin-producing cells (beta cells).

According to Len Harrison, one of the paper's authors, their experiments also revealed that new pancreatic stem cells start to grow when the pancreas is damaged as a whole (similarly to the damages induced by Type 1 diabetes).

This is true both for young individuals and, although in a lesser degree, adults. What this means, is that scientists can use autologous stem cells from the patient and not embryonic stem cells, avoiding all ethical issues arising from their use.

He also said that making insulin-producing cells is only part of a real future treatment. This is because type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition and the new insulin-producing cells would still be attacked from the patient's immune system. We still need to find the real causes that lead to the condition which, according to the professor, isn't happening any time soon.

Although the professor doesn't believe the paper to be a major breakthrough in diabetes type 1 research, he does believe it is an important step towards the right direction. He estimates that type 1 diabetes will be preventable and curable within the next generation.

Diabetes type 1 (formally known as Diabetes mellitus type 1) is a form of diabetes where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Without these cells, the human body can't control glucose levels, which results in organ damage and potentially death. Patients have to receive several insulin injections each and every day (or use an insulin pump) and carefully monitor their diet.

Small video about type 1 diabetes and beta cells

Ilia Banakh, Leonel J. Gonez, Robyn M. Sutherland, Gaetano Naselli, Leonard C. Harrison. Adult Pancreas Side Population Cells Expand after β Cell Injury and Are a Source of Insulin-Secreting Cells. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e48977 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048977

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    My Name is SUSHEEL KADAM, from INDIA.
    I am a Patient of CHRONIC PANCREATITIS since 2007, which resulted in DIABETES in me and i am TYPE - 1 Diabetic Patient.
    and since last year there is Calcification of pancreas have been detected, and at the moment I am PASSING OILY MUCOUS after meal.

    I am loosing body mass and weight.

    I have read your article and it gave me a hope that through STEM CELL THERAPY my PANCREAS would be HEALED.

    I am very eager to know any development happening in curing DIABETES through Stem cell or through any operation.

    My Details are

    CELL # : 0091-9890428576
    Email :


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