There is new hope for diabetics, according to the Neural Stem Cell Transplant May Tackle Diabetes report on October 14, 2011. Researchers in Japan have found a way to regenerate the beta cells of the pancreas, which makes possible a long awaited cure to this devastating disease that affects as many as 200 million people on our planet. The research finding were published in EMBO Molecular Medicine on October 6.
Insulin dependent diabetics are plagued by insufficient insulin production in the pancreas, the organ responsible its production. The pancreas is a shaped like a fish and located behind the stomach in the abdomen. Insulin is produced by beta cells which are located in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. When the beta cells do not function, insulin injections are necessary since diabetes is a debilitating chronic disease with many serious and life threatening complications. Diabetes treatment has been hindered by the low donations of pancreatic beta cells to regenerate the beta cells.
Researchers in Japan have found a creative solution to the problem using neural stem cells. The research which was conducted at the AIST Institute in Tsukuba, Japan was led by Dr. Tomoko Kuwabara. Human stem cells can be differentiated which means that there is a process though which stem cells can be adapted to different cell replacement roles in the body. This technique is particularly useful for situations which target a single cell as in the case of diabetes. "As diabetes is caused by the lack of a single type of cell the condition is an ideal target for cell replacement treatments," said Kuwabara.
The research transplanted cells from the hippocampus and olfactory bulb in the front of the brain into a diabetic rate. The cells then began to act like the beta cells of the pancreas. They produced insulin and when removed the rat's sugar levels rose again. Since these brain cells do not normally produce insulin, the results were a pleasant surprise because they demonstrated that the brain cells could be used as an effective treatment for diabetes.
Science Daily noted the encouraging peer response to the research results: "The discovery of stem cells which have virtually unlimited self-renewal raises great expectations for their use in regenerative medicine. The isolation and cultivation of stem cells as a renewable source of beta cells would be a major breakthrough," wrote Onur Basak and Hans Clevers, from the Hubrecht Institute for Development Biology and Stem Cell Research, in their close up paper, published in the same issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Not only does this research provide great hope for diabetics but it also offers new hope for many others suffering from diseases created by non functioning cells like diabetes. It is truly a breakthrough which will be welcomed by many.
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