August 25, 2012

Is SSEA4 the Blueprint for Stem Cells to become Beta Cells?


Pancreatic beta cells are the cells that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is a disease where the body destroys the beta cells leading to uncontrolled blood sugar. The attempts to turn stem cells into insulin-producing cell have been unsuccessful – until now. Researchers may have found a potential precursor for the development of pancreatic beta cells.

The name of the marker is SSEA4. This stands for stage-specific embryonic antigen 4, which when exposed to glucose – can encourage stem cells to proliferate into insulin-producing cells. In the study, SSEA4 was found surrounding islets in the human pancreas, but not inside.

This is a grossly insufficient explanation of the study. The details of this research can be viewed on the BioResearch Open Access Forum.

The exciting part about this research is that we may have a way to differentiate the versitile stem cell to take on the sophisticated task of insulin production. This could make the recent discovery out of Johns Hopkins University one part of the cure to Type 1 diabetes.

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