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Researchers Make Insulin-Producing Cells From Adult Skin Cells
Date:8/31/2009

May provide research model, possible treatment for type 1 diabetes in future,,,,

MONDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Using skin cells from people with type 1 diabetes, researchers were able to produce cells that made insulin in response to changing blood sugar levels, though not as efficiently as normal insulin-producing cells do.

The major immediate implication from this experiment is that scientists now have a preliminary lab model of human type 1 diabetes cells, and the hope is that an animal model of the disease could be developed from this research. Down the road, this finding could lead to a way to replace the islet cells that were destroyed when the disease first developed.

"This is a big deal," said Susan Solomon, CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, which provided some of the funding for the study. "Tackling the basic biology of type 1 diabetes, which is a very complex disease, is a critical step. With these cells, we can see in a dish what's happening to the immune system, and if you don't understand the immune response, you get nowhere with type 1 diabetes."

"This is very preliminary data, but now we could potentially look at the interaction between immune system cells and insulin-producing cells to find the root cause or trigger, which we think might vary from patient to patient," explained Meri Firpo, an assistant professor at the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Results of the study will be published in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing islet (beta) cells in the pancreas. Because the body no longer produces its own insulin, people with type 1 diabetes must replace that lost insulin through injections or an insulin pump. Researchers suspect that people who develop the disease have a genetic susceptibility to the
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