Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine (United States) succeeded in applying a technique that converts human stem cells into pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin regulating hormone blood glucose levels which managed to “cure” the diabetes a chronic disease suffered by approximately 420 million people in the world.
The results of this study are available for reading in the journal Nature Biotechnology from February 24, 2020.
According to a statement from the aforementioned house of studies, principal investigator Jeffrey R. Millman, assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering, pointed out that the mice used in the study presented a severe picture of diabetes with more than 500 milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood, an exaggerated amount for a person.
“When we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels were back to normal and they stayed that way for many months,” Millman added.
The “pluripotent” stem cells they are like tiny fragments of the organism ‘blank’, that is, they can become other cells to ‘copy’ their functions, similar to natural replacements. For years, scientists have been perfecting this ability by proposing their techniques on animal models. Now, having observed the positive effects in mice, the goal is to understand more deeply how to manipulate the insulin-producing cells that people with diabetes are sorely lacking..
The problem is that sometimes, in this cellular conversion, other organisms are produced. Although they are not harmful, they limit stem cell repair because they are “less therapeutically relevant.”
“It takes about a billion beta cells to cure a person with diabetes. But if a quarter of the cells you make are actually liver cells or other cells of the pancreas, instead of needing 1 billion cells, you need 1.25 billion cells. It makes curing the disease 25% more difficult, ”explained Professor Millman about it.
Precisely, in order to improve the technique, the scientific team tried to focus their therapy on the cytoskeleton, a network of protein filaments that shape the cell and intervene in its transport and mobility task. The control of one of its proteins called actin ensures the efficiency of the production of insulin cells.
There is still a long way to go if we want to apply this therapy to humans, according to the statement issued. The next step will be to test the method on a larger number of animals.