Hammerman and his colleague Sharon Rogers, research instructor in medicine, are leaders in the emerging field of organogenesis, which focuses on growing organs from transplanted embryonic organ precursors known as primordia. Unlike embryonic stem cells, which can become virtually any cell type, primordia are locked into becoming cells of a particular organ.
"We are encouraged by these results," Rogers says. "The absence of a need for immune suppression in diabetic rats gave us hope that we were on the right track. But many findings in rats do not hold true for species that are more closely related to humans, such as non-human primates. This one did."
The team will now determine how best to eliminate the need for injected insulin in the diabetic macaques that receive transplants, thus demonstrating long-term effectiveness of the technique, and establish the absolute safety of pancreatic primordia transplants. If these experiments succeed, the researchers plan to conduct clinical trials in humans with diabetes.
"We hope to find out how to apply our findings to human type 1 and type 2 diabetics because the embryonic pig primordia would represent an unlimited source of tissue for transplantation," Hammerman says.
|Contact: Caroline Arbanas|
Washington University in St. Louis