A new study published in the scientific journal Development is devoted the new method of growing miniature pancreas from stem cells developed by the multi-national team from the University of Copenhagen. Currently, the researchers were working with mice, but they hope that the method may be developed in the future to give cure for diabetes to the humans.
A team of researchers from the Danish Stem Cell Centre has developed a 3D method of stem cell culturing that enables pancreatic cells to expand efficiently in three dimensions when they are placed in a gel. When placed in such conditions, stem cell material from mice can grow into tree-like structures, and this happens much faster than in the situation when cells are flattened at the bottom of a culture plate. Clusters that contained only a few cells proliferated to contain 40,000 cells in a week, if placed under optimal conditions. After this, the cells in a cluster transformed in cells producing enzymes of hormones and formed pancreatic organoids - structures similar to the pancreas.
An effective cellular therapy for diabetes would need sufficient quantities of functional beta-cells. The resent studies brought researchers closer to producing pancreatic precursors, but expanding these cells and turning them into insulin-producing beta-cells is challenge. The team of researchers from the Danish Stem Cell Centre hopes that their method can be applied to produce miniature human pancreas, both as spare parts for diabetes treatment and as a material to be used in drug testing.