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Diabetes treatment with adult-derived stem cells on the way of development

Stem cell based therapies have long been considered as promising for diabetes patients but their development was restrained with medical and ethical issues. Now the researchers from Tel Aviv University got closer to the juvenile or type 1 diabetes treatment with induced pluripotent stem cells produced from pancreatic beta cells. The results of the research are presented in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, or cells received from specialized cells by their reprogramming, have been extensively experimented with recently. Like embryonic stem cells, these cells are able to give rise to different cell types in the human body, but unlike cells derived from embryos they do not raise ethical concerns.

In the study of prof. Shimon Efrat of Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS-cells) proved to be more efficient in generating insulin-producing cells compared to embryonic stem cells. The researcher has found that IPS-cells retained a “memory” because of the proteins bound to their genes. This memory “prompted” induced pluripotent stem cells to become beta-cells destroyed in the disease, and all the process was more efficient than with embryonic stem cells, which have been earlier believed to be preferable for the diabetes treatment for their ability to form any type of body cells and be easily grown in the lab. Actually, converting embryonic stem cells into pancreas beta cells proved to be uneasy task.

The finding could speed up developing of innovative diabetes stem cell therapies which could become an efficient alternative to organ transplants. Only in the U.S. about 3 million people suffer from diabetes type 1, and the organ transplants are available only for 1 patient in 1000.