Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have transformed cells from human skin into cells that produce insulin, the hormone used to treat diabetes.
The breakthrough may one day lead to new treatments or even a cure for the millions of people affected by the disease, researchers say.
The approach involves reprogramming skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, or cells that can give rise to any other fetal or adult cell type, and then inducing them to differentiate, or transform, into cells that perform a particular function – in this case, secreting insulin.
Several recent studies have shown that cells can be returned to pluripotent state using "defined factors" (specific proteins that control which genes are active in a cell), a technique pioneered by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University in Japan.
However, the UNC study is the first to demonstrate that cells reprogrammed in this way can be coaxed to differentiate into insulin-secreting cells. Results of the study are published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
"Not only have we shown that we can reprogram skin cells, but we have also demonstrated that these reprogrammed cells can be differentiated into insulin-producing cells which hold great therapeutic potential for diabetes," said study lead author Yi Zhang, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UNC and member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Of course, there are many years of additional studies that are required first, but this study provides hope for a cure for all patients with diabetes," said John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Diabetes Association and professor and chief of the endocrinology division in the UNC School of Medicine's department of medicine.
About 24 million Americans suffer from diabetes, a disease that occurs when the body is unable to produce or use insulin properly. Virtually all patients with type I diabetes, the more severe of the two types, must rely on daily injections of insulin to maintain their blood sugar levels.
Recent research exploring a possible long-term treatment – the transplantation of insulin-producing beta cells into patients – has yielded promising results. But this approach faces its own challenges, given the extreme shortage of matched organ donors and the need to suppress patients' immune systems.
The work by Zhang and other researchers could potentially address those problems, since insulin-producing cells could be made from diabetic patients' own reprogrammed cells.
Zhang is collaborating with Buse to obtain skin samples from diabetes patients. He said he hoped his current experiments will take this approach one step closer to a new treatment or even a cure for diabetes.
The research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health. Study co-authors include postdoctoral fellows Keisuke Tateishi, M.D.; Jin He, Ph.D.; Olena Taranova, Ph.D.; Ana C. D'Alessio, Ph.D.; and graduate student Gaoyang Liang, all from the UNC School of Medicine's department of biochemistry and biophysics.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Who Is Trying To Destroy The Internet?
- Debunking: A President Of The US Could Order A Nuclear Attack At A Moments Notice On A Whim
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- Lunar Spelunking & Moon Science Surprises - More Interesting To Explore Than A Boulder Plucked From An Asteroid?
- DDoS War: How Zombie Fridges Bit The Internet In The a$$ Today.
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- Biofuels Are A Climate Mistake
- "Every bit of Lunar trash will have cost thousands of dollars per kg to ship. Even at the beginning..."
- "Bpayne -> spot on, you are 100% correct. If you send me an email to my personal address - alex@phd..."
- "Well I've written half a dozen articles debunking that one in various ways. I just did a new one..."
- "No, there is no reason to be concerned about that one. I know it is filling the news right now..."
- "And of course NIBIRU . Nibirumaster..."
- To Avoid Adult Dysfunction Start 'IN UTERO'
- ACSH Medical Director Named One Of America's Top Pediatricians, We're In The Economist, And More
- The Math of Hunting and Fishing: When to Work Together
- Placebo: Bubbles Of Nothing Are Still Not Something
- People Who Take Drugs May Be Likelier to Commit Suicide
- Improved 'Screen Time' Guidelines Could Make Parents & Kids Happier