Researchers at Kumamoto University have developed an efficient method to create pancreatic islet beta cells from embryonic stem cells, according to an article in Sunday’s edition of the British journal Nature Chemical Biology.
The team, including Shoen Kume, a professor in the university’s Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, produced the cells, which can secrete insulin, and succeeded in curing diabetic mice by transplanting the newly produced tissue into them.
The team went a step further than previous teams, which had developed progenitor cells that could not secrete insulin properly.
The team checked some 1,100 molecules one by one to discover the substance necessary for progenitor cells to develop into beta cells. Two molecules were found that increased insulin secretion.
Beta cells produced with the addition of the molecules could secrete about the same amount of insulin as pancreatic cells from normal mice.
Diabetic mice with the newly produced beta cells transplanted showed falls in blood sugar levels to normal in about six weeks.
The amounts of insulin secreted from the newly produced cells are 200 to 300 times the levels achieved by cells made under existing methods, Kume said, adding, “We want to confirm the safety and put (the technology) into use within 10 years.”