Uterine cells may be a new diabetes remedy

When type 1 diabetes destroys the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, the only cure — apart from a lifetime of insulin injections — would be implanting new islet cells. Scientists have harvested these cells from cadavers, grown them from bone marrow, and coaxed umbilical cord cells to turn into islet cells with some success. Now they have a new source: the uterus.

Stem cells in the lining of the uterus generate new tissue each month as part of the menstrual cycle. But they can also form other cell types. A team led by Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, reported online August 30 in Molecular Therapythat they bathed uterine stem cells in a mix of nutrients that turned them into pancreatic islet cells. Within three weeks the cells began to produce insulin, and when they were implanted into mice with type 1 diabetes, the disease vanished within five weeks.

Taylor’s group is now determining how long the treatment lasts, and how changing the nutrient bath or increasing the dose of injected cells could make the technique more effective.


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