A new study has successfully converted human stem cells into insulin-producing cells to try and help cure diabetes.
According to Science Alert, these human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) were converted into pancreatic beta cells before being transplanted into mice who were induced with a form of acute diabetes. Following the transplant, the mice were rapidly cured.
“These mice had very severe diabetes with blood sugar readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood – levels that could be fatal for a person,” said biomedical engineer Jeffrey R. Millman from Washington University.
“When we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels had returned to normal and stayed that way for many months.”
Turning the stem cells to insulin cells is not an easy task. Millmans lab succeeded in doing so but faced the challenge of reducing ‘off-target’ cells which come about during this process. These cells aren’t harmful but are not helpful either.
However, the researchers fixed this issue by considering the cytoskeleton of the cells.
“We found that manipulating cell–biomaterial interactions and the state of the actin cytoskeleton altered the timing of endocrine transcription factor expression and the ability of pancreatic progenitors to differentiate into stem-cell-derived beta cells,” the authors explained in their paper.
The improvement of the mice who were given the cells was impressive, especially in comparison to the control group who rapidly died of their induced diabetes.
While this is a major step forward, the team acknowledge that animal trials are just the first step with no guarantee the same process will work in humans.
Image: Millman laboratory