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[IP] Diabetes transplants move closer


Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
*Diabetes transplants move closer*
Diabetes jab
Some diabetics face daily injections
A new source of insulin-producing cells could improve the chances of an 
operation which could cure diabetes in some patients.

People with type-1 diabetes have lost the ability to make the vital 
hormone insulin because "beta cells" in the pancreas have been destroyed.

They rely on regular insulin injections to control their blood sugar 
levels and keep them healthy.

They also have to avoid very sugary foods.

However, scientists now say that certain cells found in adult diabetics 
can be transformed into fully-functioning beta cells.

This paves the way for a treatment which would replace the missing beta 
cells and reduce or completely remove the need for extra insulin.

In addition, because the source of the cells is the patient, there would 
be no danger of conventional immune system rejection.

*Stem cell*

A team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute worked on cells called 
nestin-positive islet derived progenitor cells (NIPs).

These are a type of "stem cell" - a master cell which has the ability to 
develop into a multitude of different cell types.

We might be able to stimulate those cells to become truly functional

Joel Habener, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Scientists in many different research areas are working on ways of 
stimulating stem cells to develop into everything from brain cells to 

In this case, they found that NIPs could develop into beta cells when 
mixed with a hormone found naturally in the human intestine.

The same hormone appears to make beta cells secrete insulin.

Since NIPs can be found in the pancreas of diabetics, potentially they 
could be extracted, grown up into beta cells and then transplanted back.

*Less risk*

Dr Joel Habener, who led the study, said: "If we can transplant beta 
cells grown from a patient's own stem cells, the risk of rejection is gone.

"And now with the addition of this hormone, we might be able to 
stimulate those cells to become truly functional."

A spokesman for Diabetes UK described the research as "potentially 

Dr Moira Murphy, its director of research, said: "There is a clear aim 
to find a way of generating adequate supplies of insulin producing cells.

"However this research is in its infancy and there is a lot of 
developmental work to be done before this could be used in practice."

The majority of diabetes patients have the type-II version of the disease.

This involves a gradual deterioration of their body's ability to produce 
insulin and control blood sugar, and can be treated with extra insulin 
coupled with dietary restrictions.

The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.
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