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A Mouse Model Shows How Uterine Stem Cells Can Treat Diabetes

Researchers from Yale School of Medicine used uterine stem cells to treat diabetes in a mouse model, first converting them into functional insulin-producing cells. The study results have been published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

Uterine, or endometrial, stem cells are responsible for generating uterine tissue with is renewed each month in the menstrual cycle. Still, as other stem cells, they can give rise to other cell types. In the study of the Yale’s team, these cells were used to produce pancreatic islet cells that produce insulin.

The researchers added endometrial stem cells to cultures containing specific nutrients and growth factors to convert them into islet cells. Kept in such conditions for a three-week period, they developed traits of pancreatic beta cells–their shape became similar to the target cells and they started to produce proteins normally made by beta cells. What is the most important, when exposed to glucose, these cells responded like typical beta cells by releasing insulin.

The researchers injected produced cells into diabetic mice with high blood glucose levels and a low number of functioning beta-cells. Despite having higher than normal glucose level after the injections, the mice did not develop cataracts and stayed active, in contrast to the mice from the control group, which were lethargic.

The researchers expect that endometrial stem cells could be used for treating type 1 diabetes in people. In this diabetes type, pancreatic stem cells producing insulin are destroyed in the autoimmune reactions, and replenishing their number with cells produced from uterine stem cells could be one of the treatment solutions.