"Insulin Crystals" by NASA / Public Domain

Human cells reprogrammed to create insulin

Feb 14, 2019

By Matthew Warren

The destruction of a single kind of insulin-producing cell in the pancreas can lead to diabetes — but a study suggests that other cells could be modified to take its place and help to control blood sugar levels.

The results raise hopes that ‘reprogrammed’ insulin-producing cells could be used as treatment for diabetes, but the approach has so far only been tested with human cells in mice studies.

In a study published on 13 February in Nature1, researchers report coaxing human pancreatic cells that don’t normally make insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood, to change their identity and begin producing the hormone.

When implanted in mice, these reprogrammed cells relieved symptoms of diabetes, raising the possibility that the method could one day be used as a treatment in people.

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