Scientists use stem cells to produce insulin

Men with type 1 diabetes may be able to grow new, more effective insulin-producing cells from their own testicular tissue, according to a new study from Georgetown University researchers.

The findings have major implications for the treatment of type 1 diabetes, for which there currently is no cure. Individuals with the disease must receive insulin treatments throughout their entire lives.

For the study, researchers removed spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) from deceased human organ donors. After being removed from the body, these cells can develop into more general stem cells that can be used for many purposes.

They then transplanted these cells into immune-deficient mice. The researchers found that these cells began producing enough insulin in the mice to keep their blood sugar at healthy levels. Ian Gallicano, who led the study, said that the key is that SSCs have many characteristics similar to the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.

"No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," he said.