Their laboratory and animal study is a proof of principle that human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) extracted from testicular tissue can morph into insulin-secreting beta islet cells normally found in the pancreas. And the researchers say they accomplished this feat without use of any of the extra genes now employed in most labs to turn adult stem cells into a tissue of choice.
"No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," says the study's lead investigator, G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Director of the Transgenic Core Facility at GUMC.
Given continuing progress, Gallicano says his strategy could provide a unique solution to treatment of individuals with type 1 diabetes (juvenile onset diabetes). Several novel therapies have been tried for these patients, but each has drawbacks. Transplanting islet cells from deceased donors can result in rejection, plus few such donations are available. Researchers have also cured diabetes in mice using induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells -- adult stem cells that have been reprogrammed with other genes to behave like embryonic stem cells -- but this technique can produce teratomas, or tumors, in transfected tissue, as well as problems stemming from the external genes used to create IPS cells, Gallicano says.
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