Posted on Jan 30, 2019, 2 p.m.
Washington University School of Medicine has published a new study in the journal Stem Cell Reports with findings that may be significant for those with diabetes in the future.
Stem cells have been transformed into insulin producing beta cells in the past, however problems with these attempts occurred because it was difficult to regulate how much insulin these cells produced; now by tweaking the way the cells were developed this study has produced beta cells that are more responsive to glucose levels in the blood.
These new cells were transplanted into mice that couldn’t produce insulin, which then began to secrete the hormone within a few days, and helped to control mice blood sugar for months, according to Jeffrey R. Millman, Ph.D; who goes on to add these insulin producing cells react more quickly and appropriately when they encounter glucose, behaving much more like beta cells in those who don’t have diabetes.
Diabetes is rather common affecting about 30.3 million Americans alone, of which type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, wherein the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it doesn’t respond to it properly. The pancreas can initially create more insulin to make up the deficit but it is not able to keep up the demand over time. Blood sugar levels eventually rise and is it becomes no longer possible to keep the body within normal healthy range; increased blood sugar can lead to a range of potentially serious health issues.
Of the some 30.3 million Americans with diabetes estimates are that around 7.2 million have not been diagnosed, and there are around 1.5 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed in the USA every year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death within the USA, without proper management a number of complications can arise affecting the eyes, nerves, skin, aw well as an increased likelihood of high blood pressure and stroke. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, extreme fatigue, vision problems, excessive hunger, and bruises/cuts take a long time to heal. Incidence of diabetes is continuing to rise along with the obesity epidemic.
Findings from this study offers new paths for diabetes research to follow. Whether or not this concept will work in humans is not known, clinical trials will need to be conducted after the scientists develop a way to test the new cells safely in humans. If it does get to that point Millman has plans for mass production, he and his team can already generate more than a billion beta cells within a few weeks.
While there is still a long road to travel, the concept in principle represents a significant boost for the treatment of diabetes.
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