Stem Cell Helps Map New Information on Insulin Production

by Mark Benson on April 28, 2012

Research to make stem cells into beta cells

Researchers and scientists from the Danish Stem Cell Center of the University of Copenhagen in conjunction with the Hagedorn Research Institute have been able to gain new information on the signaling patterns that control the production of insulin in the body.

This is important knowledge that can help achieve the ultimate goal: the conversion of stem cells into insulin producing beta cells transplantable to those that need them the most.

Insulin is a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas. When beta cells malfunction, the body develops a condition called diabetes. Insulin is vital to the normal production of the body and those unable to produce them in the right amounts would have to resort to receiving medication externally through oral or injectible doses.

It is hoped that in the near future, it would be possible to treat diabetes more effectively to prevent secondary conditions such as cardiovascular disease, blindness, nerve and kidney complications through new implants of insulin producing beta cells that came from stem cells.

According to Professor Palle Serup of DanStem, “In order to get stem cells to develop into insulin-producing beta cells, it is necessary to know what signaling mechanisms normally control the creation of beta cells during fetal development. This is what our new research results can contribute.”

He added, “When we know the signaling paths, we can copy them in test tubes and thus in time convert stem cells to beta cells. Our research contributes knowledge about the net step in development and signaling involved in the communication between cells – an area that has not been extensively described. This new knowledge about the ability of the so-called Notch signaling first to inhibit and then to stimulate the creation of hormone-producing cells is crucially important to being able to control stem cells better when working with them in test tubes.”

The signaling mechanism controls the first steps of development from stem cells into the specialized beta cells. With the new knowledge about the characteristics of the Notch signaling mechanism would enable scientists to create new ways to properly cultivate stem cells to make conversion into beta cells more effective and efficient in the long run.

The new research was conducted through the cooperation between DanStem, the Danish Hagedorn Research Institute and partners from Japan, Germany, Korea and the United States. The paper detailing the study has just been published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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