Stem cells produce insulin for patients?

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Harvard scientists have enhanced a process of converting stem cells into insulin-producing beta cells in their laboratory. They applied biological and physical methods to increase beta cells in a sample. Thus, they published their findings in the journal Nature. In fact, the result suggests that this new method might be used to make better beta cell transplants for patients with Type 1 diabetes.

In addition, Douglas Melton’s lab demonstrated for the first time that stem cells could be transformed to functional beta cells. It is a crucial step to help patients produce their own insulin, in that process beta cells made up 30 percent of the final cell mixture.

“To improve from 30 percent, we needed to really understand the other 70 percent of the resulting cells,” said Adrian Veres, a graduate student in the Melton lab and lead author of the current study. “Until recently, we couldn’t take a sample of our cells and ask what cell types were in there. Now, with the revolution in single-cell sequencing, we can go from nothing to the full list.”

Furthermore, Semma Therapeutics collaborated with the Harvard to develop a second method for enriching beta cells: physically separating all the cells in the combination, and later allowing them to gather back together.

Indeed, the clustering effect impacted the number of beta cells. Hormone-producing cells are more attracted to other hormone-producing cells rather than those which cannot produce hormones.

Finally, the two methods enhanced the richness of these beta cells in a sample of converted stem cells from 30 percent to 80 percent.

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