An Egyptian team of researchers at the Urology and Nephrology Center (UNC), in their attempt to develop stem cell treatment for diabetes, produced insulin producing cells from stem cells in diabetic mice. They hope they will be able to replicate results with human stem cells.
The team used mesenchymal stem cells derived from adult bone marrow and transformed them into insulin-producing cells. This cell type was selected because of its multipotentency, i.e. the ability of these cells to give rise to various cell types, including insulin-producing cells. Bone marrow stem cells can also be multiplied ex vivo without differentiating. The advantage of these cells is that they are gathered from the patient’s own body and because of this they are not rejected by the body.
The researchers cultivated mesenchymal stem cells in a glucose-rich medium containing activation and growth factors and in a series of experiments transformed them into insulin-producing islet-like structures. The share of insulin-producing cells in these structures was 1.5 to 5%. However, when transplanted into diabetic mouse, they helped to normalize its sugar levels within 4 weeks.
The researchers spent months to understand how that low quantities of insulin-producing cells can bring such results and found that further cell differentiation was going on in vivo after the stem cell transplantation.
The team is going to understand if the process can be replicated for humans and how many clusters will be needed for this. In the meantime, the study drew attention in the international medical community.