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[IP] This from Diabetes in Control

Diabetes Tests 'Offer Cure Hope'
on Monday, December 06 @ 17:55:04 EST

US scientists believe they have made a discovery which could mean a cure for 
more diabetic patients in the future. 

Some patients have already been cured by islet cell transplants, but a major 
obstacle is a shortage of donor pancreases to harvest the cells from. 

Now National Institute of Health scientists say they have found a way to make 
more of the cells required. They told the online edition of Science that they 
used a serum derived from cows to help in their reproduction. 

People with Type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to keep their blood sugar 
under control. This is because the islet cells in their pancreas, whose job it 
is to make insulin, have been destroyed. Replacing the loss with islet cells 
from donors can cure the condition. 

However, a large number of islet cells are needed and there are too few 
donors to meet demand. 

Stem cells - very primitive cells that have the capability to become any cell 
in the body - have offered some hope, but again it is difficult to produce 
enough islet cells from stem cells. 

Dr Marvin Gershengorn and colleagues at the National Institute of Diabetes 
and Digestive Kidney Diseases looked at a way of solving this problem. They 
removed islet cells from pancreases donated by people who had died. They then 
 exposed the islet cells to a medium containing a substance called foetal bovine
serum. This serum, derived from cows, appeared to encourage the islet cells to 
change into more primitive cells that were the predecessors of islet cells. 

Although these human islet-derived precursor cells, or hIPCs, do not 
 themselves produce insulin, they are able to replicate easily. This means it is
 possible to get large numbers of hIPCs in a relatively short time period -
almost a
billion-fold increase in 90 days. 

They are different from stem cells because they are more developed and can 
only go on to become islet-like cells, which they did in the US trials. These 
 islet-like cells showed many of the characteristics of the original islet cells
and were capable of producing small amounts of insulin. 

The researchers said their findings were exciting and could lead to advances 
in islet cell transplants for people with Type 1 diabetes. Dr Gershengorn 
 said: "This is a step forward in the field, but we are still a long way from
this knowledge to develop therapies for diabetes. 

"For one thing, these differentiated cells do not function as well as the 
 original cells. "They don't produce as much insulin and they are not as
to changes in the environment. "For another thing, we grew these cells in a 
culture that is not optimal for use in humans, so we are not ready to 
 transplant these cells into people. Still, I'm encouraged." He said they hoped
to be
able to overcome some of these barriers in the near future. 

Jo Brodie, islet project co-ordinator at Diabetes UK, said: "This research is 
useful in helping us to understand the process involved in islet development 
and could lead to advances in islet cell transplants for people with Type 1 
"We await with interest further results in this area." 
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