Mice treated for diabetes with stem cells in just two weeks

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Diabetes mellitus, as you know, arises from problems with the production or regulation of insulin levels – the hormone that is responsible for the utilization of glucose in the body.

Researchers all over the world are working on new methods of treatment for this disease, and one of them includes the conversion of stem cells into beta cells that produce the necessary hormone.

Recently, the same group of scientists under the direction of Jeffrey Millman of the University of Washington has developed a more efficient method to help convert the desired cells, and found that the introduction of “new recruits” in the body of mice suffering from diabetes, cure them of the disease in just a fortnight.

Several years ago, researchers found out how to convert human stem cells into pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. (Recall that in patients with diabetes, these cells do not produce a sufficient amount of the hormone.) Due to a number of shortcomings of the new technique, then specialists could not effectively cope with diabetes in rodents.

Now, Millman’s group has improved cell transformation technology. The new technique allows specialists to more effectively “reprogram” human table cells into cells that produce insulin. As a result, scientists are able to again control the level of glucose in the blood.

As Millman explains, the main problem scientists face when converting human stem cells to beta cells is the random production of other unnecessary cells.

“In the case of beta cells, we can get other types of pancreatic or liver cells,” the scientist explains.

Such cells are considered safe, but they cannot do the main work and fight diabetes.

“The more side cells you get, the less therapeutically significant cells you have. [At the same time] you need about a billion beta cells to cure a person of diabetes. But, if a quarter of the cells you received are actually liver cells or other pancreatic cells, you’ll need 1.25 billion cells instead of a billion cells, ”Millman explains, adding that“ side ”cells reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.

Scientists sought to reduce their number. To do this, they set their sights on the cytoskeleton – the basic structure that gives the cells their shape. The fact is that the protein, which is part of the cytoskeleton, also plays an important role in cell transformation.

As a result, the Millman group was able to get a higher percentage of beta cells, as well as improve their performance.

Specialists injected these beta cells into the mice with diabetes, and their blood glucose levels stabilized. Such a trick has helped, as scientists say, functionally cure diabetes for up to nine months.

“The mice had very severe diabetes with blood glucose readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood. We are talking about levels that could be fatal to humans. When we transplanted insulin-secreting cells into mice for two weeks, their blood glucose returned to normal, and also remained so for many months, “says Millman.

In the future, the researchers plan to continue the work and check how the obtained cells act on the organisms of larger animals and over longer periods of time.

We add that in the current work, Millman and colleagues showed that manipulations with the cytoskeleton allow better control of the conversion of stem cells into cells of the liver, stomach, esophagus and intestines. Thus, this technology in the future may be useful in the treatment of a variety of pathologies.

A research paper published in Nature Biotechnology.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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