Sunday, February 23, 2014

Could We Be Closer To a Cure for Type I Diabetes?

News Brief by Kanika Kamal

Recent developments at Gladstone Institutes are paving the way to a cure for Type I diabetes. Type I diabetes usually arises in childhood and is caused by the destruction of beta cells, typically found in the pancreas. These beta cells are very important for the human body, as they secrete insulin into the blood and signal cells to uptake sugar in the form of glucose. Before this development, patients suffering from diabetes used to have to constantly inject insulin and monitor blood-glucose levels. Now, things are looking up for them.

Using regenerative medicine in animal models, scientists took skin cells, called fibroblasts, from lab mice and treated them with a mixture of different molecules to reprogram them. These cells then became endoderm-like cells. Endoderm cells are a type of cell in early embryos that eventually differentiate during growth and turn into the body’s different major organs. After scientists created these endoderm-like cells, they used another mixture of chemicals and made the cells into early pancreatic-like cells, which they called PPLCs. Their ultimate goal was to have the PPLCs mature into cells similar to beta cells, therefore having the ability to secrete insulin. After performing experiments on these cells in petri dishes, the results showed that PPLCs could, in fact, secrete insulin. The excitement did not end there. They also realized that it only takes one week after transplant for the glucose levels in the blood to show signs of decreasing and only eight weeks for PPLCs to become fully-functional, insulin-secreting beta cells.

Not only does this research open up new insights into diabetes and highlight the importance of regenerative medicine, but it also helps scientists understand the types of dysfunctions in beta cells that lead to diabetes. With the new technology and brilliant new minds coming up in modern medicine today, scientists and doctors are coming closer and closer to finding a cure for this disease that plagues millions of Americans.

Gladstone Institutes. (2014, February 6). Scientists reprogram skin cells into insulin-producing pancreas cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 20, 2014 from
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