Bone Marrow Stem Cells Revolutionizing Diabetes Treatments
A study led by Andreea Ianus of New York University could transform diabetes therapies for patients in the future. Researchers from NYU used a mouse model to illustrate that bone marrow cells are capable of turning into insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
The journal Science reported that this may be a step in the right direction for a diabetes therapy that won’t necessitate consistent insulin injections. The scientists first inserted bone marrow cells from male mice to female mouse models whose marrow was previously harmed from radiation. Six weeks post transplantation, the male cells were identified in the pancreas of the female mice.
The donor cells were engineered to create GFP (a fluorescence protein) if they generated insulin. These bone marrow cells actually produced insulin and similar compounds normally made by pancreatic beta islet cells. The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. While the research appears illuminative and capable of improving diabetes treatments, some skepticism about the study abounds.
“Many labs have looked at bone marrow-derived pancreatic cells and not seen similar results,” Markus Grompe of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon, told the news source.
Grompe explains that it is possible the bone marrow cells merely merge with existing insulin-producing beta cells instead of completely converting into beta cells. However, the scientists from NYU claim to have rejected this possibility.
The researchers studied the fusion capabilities of the male bone marrow cells by transplanting them into female mice whose beta cells possess an inactivated form of GFP. The male cells contained an enzyme that triggers the inactive GFP. The marrow cells were not illuminated, which shows that they never combined with the female beta cells.
Further experiments are planned and the researchers hope to find that marrow cells are able to repair insulin production in a diabetes mouse model. Co-author Mehboob Hussain predicts that the beta cell production rate of the new cells will rise significantly in mice with impaired pancreases.
More recently, scientists from Cedars-Sinai’s Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute discovered a gene that assists bone marrow stem cells in repairing the pancreas of a mouse model that has insulin-dependent diabetes. Science Daily reports that this research is further confirmation that a diabetic patient’s own bone marrow may one day be used to treat this medical condition.
Over the years, there have been studies that show bone marrow stem cell therapy may alleviate diabetes symptoms in laboratory mouse models. The Cedars-Sinai scientists engineered the bone marrow cells to stimulate a specific gene. The genetically-engineered stem cells brought about temporary beta cell recovery, improved blood vessel growth, and assisted in activating genes necessary for insulin production.
“It [the study] demonstrates the possible clinical benefits of using bone marrow-derived stem cells, modified to express that gene, for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes,” Dr. John Yu, professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, told the news source.
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