Mar. 5 - Researchers in California have turned skin cells in mice into insulin producing beta cells, effectively curing the animals of diabetes. They hope to achieve similar results in human cells, paving the way to an eventual cure for a disease that affects millions of people around the world. Ben Gruber has more.
Just a few weeks ago this mouse had diabetes. But thanks to groundbreaking research taking place at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco, the mouse is now disease free. The research, led by Dr. Sheng Ding, uses a new method to decode and genetically modify skin cells into insulin producing beta cells. Director of the Institute, Dr. Deepak Srivastava says Dr. Ding's research paves the way to developing a new way to battle diabetes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. DEEPAK SRIVASTAVA, DIRECTOR AT THE GLADSTONE INSTITUTE, SAYING: "He has been able to create a cell that is not a stem cell but is derived from, in this case, an animals' own cell and transplant it back into the animals and have it essentially cure its diabetes." To accomplish this, the researchers extracted skin cells from the mouse and used a two phase process to reprogram them into what they call PPLC cells. And just eight weeks after these new cells were transplanted into the pancreas of the mouse, they matured into insulin producing beta cells that soon began regulating the animal's blood sugar levels, essentially curing it of diabetes. Dr. Srivastava says his team are now testing the reprogramming protocol on human cells to see if they respond in the same way. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. DEEPAK SRIVASTAVA, DIRECTOR AT THE GLADSTONE INSTITUTE, SAYING: "I think this is a major step forward because we haven't has this type of success even in an animal model in the past. There will be many hurdles ahead to see of this works in humans and test all of the safety issues. But there is reason for a lot of hope for the millions of people out there suffering from diabetes." Improving technologies are increasingly helping diabetics monitor glucose levels in their blood and manage their disease, but the Gladstone scientists believe that while there are years of research still ahead, they may be on track to produce a cure.