- NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Freeing diabetics from the need to inject insulin would revolutionize
the treatment of this very common disease. Transplanting insulin-producing
pancreatic tissue into diabetics is one promising treatment--but limited
by the scarcity of such tissue.
- Now, from researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center at
Harvard Medical School comes word of the successful growth of insulin-producing
tissue, carried out in the laboratory.
- In the July 5th issue of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, Dr. Susan Bonner-Weir and colleagues at the Boston,
Massachusetts center describe their use of pancreatic duct cells to grow
pancreatic islet-tissue whose beta cells are the source of human insulin.
- "We have been able to expand human duct tissue and
then to direct its differentiation to islet...cells (in the laboratory),''
the researchers write ``The ability to cultivate human islets...opens a
new approach for beta cell replacement therapy.''
- As Bonner-Weir explained to Reuters Health, researchers
in Canada recently demonstrated that transplanting islets into diabetics
enabled the patients to dispense with the need to inject insulin.
- ``The need for a new source of human islets has been
emphasized by (the Canadians') stunning success (with) islet transplantation,''
- ``The importance of our work is that our (laboratory)
approach, once optimized, might generate meaningful amounts of new human
islets from tissue that otherwise would have been discarded,'' Bonner-Weir
added. ``We're like alchemists changing lead into gold.''
- According to their report, the team was ``impressed''
by earlier work using rat pancreases that demonstrated the unusual ''capacity
of adult pancreatic duct cells to both expand and differentiate.'' The
group theorized that these adult cells might be able to be modified, under
the right conditions, into cells that could become islet cells.
- Over a period of 3 to 4 weeks, the researchers noted
that the growing tissue produced ``islet-like structures that we have called
cultivated human islet buds (CHIBs),'' the report indicates.
- ``Our first observation of the CHIBs was a eureka moment:
the formation of three-dimensional structures with islet buds was far more
striking than (what) we expected,'' Bonner-Weir said.
- As to when these results might translate into an actual
therapeutic option for diabetics, Bonner-Weir said, ``It is always difficult
to predict a time course for science. We hope that the efforts of our group,
and others around the world, will lead to optimization of this approach
and good yields of human islet tissue within only a couple of years.''
- SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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