For the first time, researchers have successfully transformed human stem cells into mature insulin-producing cells. In the long term, this could cure people with type 1 diabetes.
That could change the lives of millions of people with type 1 diabetes around the world. For the first time, US researchers have managed to transform human stem cells into mature insulin-producing cells in the lab, according to a study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
This success is the culmination of a work of several years. "The cells we were producing were stuck in an immature stage where they could not adequately respond to blood glucose and secrete insulin properly," says Matthias Hebrok of the San Francisco Diabetes Research Center. , author of the study. Then he and his team realized that the key to success lay in a neglected aspect of beta cell development, the physical process by which cells separate from the rest of the pancreas and form what are called the islets of Langerhans.
The researchers then replicated this process in the laboratory by artificially separating stem cells from the pancreas and reforming them into clusters of islets. As a result, beta cells and others (delta and alpha) started to respond to glucose as mature insulin-producing cells.
Successfully tested on mice
The researchers then transplanted these "islets" into healthy mice and found that they functioned for several days, producing insulin to respond to blood sugar levels in the same way as the natural islets of animals.
"We can now generate insulin-generating cells that look and behave like pancreatic cells that you and I have in our body, which is a major step toward our goal of creating cells that could be transplanted into patients with diabetes, "says Matthias Hebrok.
Complications of type 1 diabetes can put the patient's life at risk
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of diabetes cases worldwide and in France. It is an autoimmune disease that is most commonly seen in childhood and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin to regulate glucose levels in the blood, sugar spikes can seriously damage organs, even causing death. While this condition can be treated with regular insulin spikes, some people still have acute or chronic complications of poor blood glucose control.
These include retinopathy, renal failure, neuropathy, coronary heart disease (CHD) and peripheral arterial disease (lower extremity artery disease). These complications can put the life of the patient at risk. That's why, today, diabetics threatened with death can receive a pancreas transplant (most often accompanied by a kidney transplant).
According to the Paul Rousse Hepato-Billal Center, since the first transplantation of the pancreas in 1996, the operation has been going on better and better. Today, the survival of patients at 3, 5 and 10 years is respectively 90%, 87% and 70%. On average, 80 transplants take place each year in France.