February 20, 2014

Shedding Skin to Make Insulin


skinInsulin is one of the gifts from the endocrine system, which means it comes from an organ that secretes directly into the bloodstream. The shocking turn of events was published in Cell Stem Cell with a study that explains how researchers have found a source of insulin-producing cells in the skin.

The stonewall in finding an effective treatment for T1D is the short supply of viable options to created insulin-producing cells. With the magic of regenerative medicine, researchers are thinking this may be a thing of the past.

Every story about T1D starts with the autoimmune dysfunction. Putting the immune issue aside, a new approach to harvesting cells capable of becoming insulin-producing cells has been discovered.

The cells used in this study are fibroblasts. These are skin cells that play a vital role in wound healing. Although T1D isn’t a wound, per se, it definitely involves a few battles annihilating insulin-producing in the body.

Like boot camp, the fibroblast soldiers are conditioned for war in a solution to  transform the cells into endoderm-like cells. Endoderm cells are then trained to become insulin-producing cells.

In an animal model, the transplantation of these insulin-producing cells not only secreted insulin but they also regulated glucose near normal levels. Historically this has been hit-or-miss with other sources to created insulin-producing cells.

To test the good results, the team removed the insulin-producing cells to verify that the normal glucose levels were due to the lab-created insulin-producing cells. Turns-out, the lab-generated insulin-producing cells are so life-life, they regenerated other insulin-producing cells that appeared 8 weeks later.

For me, it’s been almost 30 years that a viable source of insulin-producing cells seemed nonexistent. In the last year, I’ve read about 2 potential sources. Somebody put a flame to gas because things are really cooking in T1D research.

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