Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body's inability to control blood sugar levels and therfore many people with diabetes need regular insulin shots.
Shortage in tissue availability from cadaver donors and the need for life-long immunosuppression severely restrict the large-scale application of cell-replacement therapy for diabetic patients.
Pancreatic and duodenal homeobox gene 1 (PDX-1) is a factor that controls pancreas development in the embryo, a factor which researchers have used in this study for cell-replacement therapy.
|PDX-1-treated human liver cells express and secrete insulin in a glucose-regulated manner|
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences|
Dr Sarah Ferber and colleagues from Israel conducted a study suggesting the potential use of adult human liver as alternate tissue for autologous beta-cell-replacement therapy.
The researchers treated adult human liver cells by using PDX-1 and soluble factors.
The research team induced a comprehensive developmental shift of adult human liver cells into functional insulin-producing cells.
The team found that PDX-1-treated human liver cells express insulin, store it in defined granules, and secrete the hormone in a glucose-regulated manner.
The PDX-1 stimulated the cells to behave in the same way as insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
The researchers noted that when transplanted under the renal capsule of diabetic, immunodeficient mice, the cells ameliorated hyperglycemia for prolonged periods of time.
Dr Ferber's team concludes, “Inducing developmental redirection of adult liver offers the potential of a cell-replacement therapy for diabetics by allowing the patient to be the donor of his own insulin-producing tissue.”
“It will avoid the need to rely on donor cells - or controversial alternatives, such as the use of stem cells taken from foetal or embryonic tissue.”
Dr Angela Wilson, research director at the charity Diabetes UK, adds that "A shortage of donor pancreases and the need to take anti-rejection drugs for life are two major problems currently limiting pancreatic islet cell transplantation as a treatment for diabetes.”
"This research is potentially very exciting and could eventually lead to therapies that allow individuals with diabetes to be the donors of their own insulin-producing tissue.”
"However, it is very early days and we await the next stage with interest."