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Stem cells support pancreatic islet repair in diabetes treatment

Italian researchers discovered that bone marrow stem cells may facilitate islet cell regeneration process. The study published in Cell Transplantation suggests using stem cells as "feeder tissue," which supports pancreatic islet repair in patients. This investigation leads to a new approach in diabetes treatment.

Research reports that in the presence of bone marrow stem cells pancreatic cells of the recipient proliferate and insulin production increases. Besides, stem cells prevent remaining islets from further destruction at onset of disease. Stem cells may be clinically used in diabetes treatment as they help to restore pancreatic islet functions.

The researchers suggest bone marrow stem cells play protective role in pancreatic islet regeneration. However, the mechanism of this process remains unclear. The researchers assume that bone marrow cells influence vascularization (the formation of new blood vessels in tissues) which improves islet regeneration.

The scientists recently proved that pancreatic mesenchymal stromal cells originate from bone marrow stem cells. It means that there may be a “cross talk” between pancreatic and bone marrow cells. The researchers speculate that this interrelation may also play role in the development of diabetes. This important assumption needs further investigation.

The researchers are going to examine the possibility of using bone marrow stem cells as the site for islet transplantation. Currently islet cells from non-living donors are used for infusions in diabetes treatment. However, the major problem is that only nearly half of the islet mass survives after isolation. Patients have to undergo second islet cell transplantation.

Bone marrow stem cells may offer the ideal microenvironment for islet survival. They ensure the integrity of the donor islets and participate in their regeneration. Bone marrow stem cells may be widely used for diabetes treatment as they are easily available. The researchers started clinical trials involving stem cells to cure both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans.