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Researchers transformed human stem cells into mature insulin stem cells.

Insulin-Producing Stem Cells Developed in Lab

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Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have developed insulin-producing stem cells that can help cure type 1 diabetes. This study was published in the Nature Cell Biology on 1 February 2019.

According to the study, researchers transformed human stem cells into mature insulin stem cells. This discovery is a step to help cure type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition which destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. It is an autoimmune disease which results in high blood sugar.

Without the body being able to produce insulin, the body breaks down fat and muscles leading to a loss in body weight. High sugar levels can also cause severe damage to nerves and organ damage.

Up until now replacing these cells had been a major concern as these cells are lost in type 1 diabetic patients. Developing these cells in a lab which work similar to those produced in a human body gives hope to patients suffering from type 1 diabetes.

In the study, the researchers artificially separated pancreatic stem cells and reformed them into clusters. In this process the beta cells responded to blood sugar and also alpha and delta cells developed. The researchers then tested this on healthy mice and discovered positive results in days.

Matthias Hebrok, the professor in Diabetes Research at UCSF and director of the UCSF Diabetes Center and also the senior author of the study says, “We can now generate insulin-producing cells that look and act a lot like the pancreatic beta cells you and I have in our bodies. This is a critical step towards our goal of creating cells that could be transplanted into patients with diabetes.”

Gopika Nair, PhD, and one of the authors of the study said, “Current therapeutics like insulin injections only treat the symptoms of the disease. Our work points to several exciting avenues to finally finding a cure.”

According to the American Diabetes Association about 1.25 million (12.5 lakh) Americans have type 1 diabetes. In India, about 72,946,400 cases of diabetes were recorded in the year 2017, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Whereas in 2015, 97,700 cases were registered in India.

Previously when the researchers tried to create an insulin-producing stem, the cells used to get stuck at a stage where they were not able to respond to blood glucose and did not create insulin in the body. In this new study, the researchers overcame this obstacle.

People with type 1 diabetes can get a pancreas transplant but the wait is long and the procedure is risky. As Hebrok says with insulin-producing stem cell, it is a step forward in science and has opened doors for more opportunities.

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