A team of Japanese researchers has extracted stem cells from the pancreases of newborn mice in an experiment that could lead to a new treatment for diabetes, team members said Wednesday.

It is the first time that stem cells have been separated from the pancreas. They were previously obtained in small numbers from blood, nerves, the liver and other parts of humans and animals, according to the members.

The research team includes Hideki Taniguchi, a lecturer on digestive-system surgery, and graduate student Atsushi Suzuki, both with the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The researchers say the stem cells usually exist in the pancreas at a ratio of one to about 20,000 pancreatic cells.

The extracted stem cells were multiplied in vitro and then grew into cells that secrete vital hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, the researchers said.

Taniguchi said that in addition to possibly leading to a new development in diabetic treatment, the experiment opens up the possibility that stem cells from human pancreases could be separated and multiplied for use in multiple transplants.

The researchers said they also succeeded in separating stem cells from the pancreases of adult mice.

The findings will be made public at a meeting Thursday in Kyoto of the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine.

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