Regenerative Medicine Creates Hope for a Diabetes Cure

Researchers at Gladstone Institutes believe they are on to something special: the possibility of applying regenerative medicine to diabetes, with an eye towards curing the disease.

In a pre-clinical (animal model) study, researchers took skin cells from mice, treated them with a host of molecules, and reprogrammed them into cells that imitated pancreas-like cells, or PPLCs, with the hope that PPLCs would then mature in the mice body when they returned them, and perhaps contribute to lowering their blood sugar levels.

As noted by researchers, the need to recreate insulin-producing B-cells, which are destroyed in diabetics, is critical.

"The power of regenerative medicine is that it can potentially provide an unlimited source of functional, insulin-producing B-cells," said lead investigator Sheng Ding, PhD. "These cells can then be transplanted into the patient. Previous attempts to produce large quantities of healthy B-cells have not been entirely successful."

Their method, on the other hand, did appear successful: a week after transplant, the glucose levels of the mice began to drop and to approach normal levels. When they removed those newly transplanted cells, the mice would experience a glucose spike.

"These results highlight the power of small molecules in cellular reprogramming." Added Ding, noting that many of the PPLCs had in fact developed into fully functioning, insulin-producing cells. "They are proof-of-principle that could one day be used as a personalized therapeutic approach in patients."

The team reported their findings in the journal Stem Cell.

Photo: British Council