Researchers use skin cells from adult woman with Type 1 diabetes for nuclear transfer to egg cells which in turn produced stem cells that were then coaxed to become insulin-producing cells.
One day, doctors would like to cure a patient suffering from Type 1 diabetes by replacing the nonfunctional cells that would normally produce insulin. Recently, two independent research teams reported on substantial progress to making this dream a future reality.
In a report published earlier this month in the journal Cell Stem Cell, Korean scientists working with colleagues in the U.S. at multiple institutions described the creation of pluripotent stem cells from adult male skin cells by a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The process involved transferring the DNA-containing nuclei of the adult skin cells into unfertilized human eggs and allowing the hybrid cells to grow into early embryos from with the scientists harvested stem cells with DNA that perfectly matched the adult donors.
Pluripotent stem cells derived from embryos have the potential to develop into any kind of cell found in the human body. Scientists hope that by using stem cells, they may grow entire replacement organs in efforts to treat a variety of diseases and disorders, including Type 1 diabetes. The stem cells made by SCNT matched two male donors aged 35 and 75, respectively.
The process of creating stem cells in this manner was verified on Monday by an independent research team that successfully created stem cells from a 32-year old woman with Type 1 diabetes. In the report published in the journal Nature, Dieter Egli and colleagues described one very important additional accomplishment. They successfully coaxed the stem cells they made into becoming insulin-producing cells.
“We are now one step closer to being able to treat diabetic patients with their own insulin-producing cells,” said Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), who led the study.
These recent accomplishments in embryonic stem cell research have caught the eyes of bioethicists who caution on how science proceeds.
“This repeated cloning of embryos and generation of stem cells, now using cells collected from adults, increases the likelihood that human embryos will be produced to generate therapy for a specific individual,” wrote Insoo Hyun in a comment carried by Nature. “Regulatory structures must be in place to oversee it.”