Stem-cell therapy offers great hope for diseases in which certain types of cells are dysfunctional or dying – such as diabetes, which affects insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. The idea is that the desired replacement cells can be grown from human stem cells (capable of developing into almost any cell type) and then engrafted into the patient. Over the years, scientists have been working to create effective stem-cell derived beta cells, but often these cells’ insulin production has been erratic. Now, through painstaking tweaking of the culturing conditions, researchers have come up with their best beta cell recipe yet. Indeed, the new improved cells (pictured) are superior at responding to glucose and appropriately secreting insulin (stained bright poppy red) than previous versions. And, when transferred into mice, these cells could effectively control the animals’ blood sugar for months. As such, the cells may be nearing readiness for clinical trial.
Written by Ruth Williams
- Image by the Millman lab, Washington University
- Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in Stem Cell Reports, January 2019