Researchers Train Skin Cells to Produce Insulin

A new study done at the University of Iowa and published to the Public Library of Science indicates that researchers were able to retrain human skin cells to produce the hormone, insulin, in mice. The researchers hope that this development will be able to reverse the effects of diabetes. In addition, they also want this treatment to be able to replace the need for insulin shots or a transplant of the pancreas.

 

The researchers began by taking skin cells from adult humans. They then retrained the cells to behave like pancreas cells. In diabetes patients, the pancreas stop working properly and fails to produce insulin. The study was lead by Dr. Nicholas Zavazava, an internal medicine professor at the University of Iowa.

 

The researchers estimate that it will be at least several years before this new approach could be tested in humans. However, since the project began in 2005, the researchers say that they have made significant progress. Dr. Zavazava says that stem cells in human embryos can be made to undergo the same changes. A California team of researchers is already conducting a human trial that uses embryonic stem cells. He estimates that his team will be able to get approval in order to perform a human trial as well sometime in the future.

 

The project has already received a grant of $650,000 from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, the study is looking for additional funding from private donors, as well as, the NIH

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