Cell research hope for diabetics

Scientists have come a step closer to developing stem cell treatments for pancreatic diseases such as Type 1 diabetes.

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Scientists hope stem cell research could eventually help diabetes sufferers

Scientists have come a step closer to developing stem cell treatments for pancreatic diseases such as Type 1 diabetes.

A 3D cell culture system was used to mass produce stem cells with the ability to become two kinds of pancreatic cell, including insulin-producing beta cells.

The research, conducted on mice, involved cell signalling molecules known as Wnts that are inactive in the adult pancreas.

"We have found a way to activate the Wnt pathway to produce an unlimited expansion of pancreatic stem cells isolated from mice," said study leader Dr Hans Clevers, from the Hubrecht Institute in Heidelberg, Germany.

"By changing the growth conditions, we can select two different fates for the stem cells and generate large numbers of either hormone-producing beta cells or pancreatic duct cells."

Stem cell research holds out great promise for diabetes sufferers who rely on daily insulin injections because they cannot produce insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that wipes out the beta cells in the pancreas.

However, such research is still at a very early stage. The German scientists, whose findings appear in The EMBO Journal, now plan to extend their technique to human pancreatic cells.