Insulin-producing pancreatic cells created from human skin cells
New York: Scientists at a US university have
successfully converted human skin cells into fully-functional pancreatic cells.
The new cells produced insulin in response to changes
in glucose levels, and, when transplanted into mice, the cells protected the
animals from developing diabetes in a mouse model of the disease.
The study, conducted by scientists at the Gladstone
Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), also
presents significant advancements in cellular reprogramming technology, which
will allow scientists to efficiently scale up pancreatic cell production and
manufacture trillions of the target cells in a step-wise, controlled manner, a
Gladstone Institutes statement said.
"Our results demonstrate for the first time that
human adult skin cells can be used to efficiently and rapidly generate
functional pancreatic cells that behave similar to human beta cells," said
Matthias Hebrok, director of the Diabetes Centre at UCSF and a co-author of the
"This finding opens up the opportunity for the
analysis of patient-specific pancreatic beta cell properties and the
optimisation of cell therapy approaches," Hebrok added.
In the study, the scientists first used pharmaceutical
and genetic molecules to reprogramme skin cells into endoderm progenitor cells
early developmental cells that have already been designated to mature into one
of a number of different types of organs.
With this method, the cells don't have to be taken all
the way back to pluripotent stem cell state, meaning the scientists can turn
them into pancreatic cells faster. The researchers have used a similar
procedure previously to create heart, brain, and liver cells.
After another four molecules were added, the endoderm
cells divided rapidly, allowing more than a trillion-fold expansion.
Critically, the cells did not display any evidence of tumour formation, and
they maintained their identity as early organ-specific cells.
The scientists then progressed these endoderm cells
two more steps, first into pancreatic precursor cells, and then into
fully-functional pancreatic beta cells.
Most importantly, these cells protected mice from
developing diabetes in a model of disease, having the critical ability to
produce insulin in response to changes in glucose levels.
"This new cellular reprogramming and expansion
paradigm is more sustainable and scalable than previous methods. Using this
approach, cell production can be massively increased while maintaining quality
control at multiple steps," said Sheng Ding, a senior investigator in the
Roddenberry Stem Cell Centre at Gladstone and co-author of the study.
The study findings were published in the latest issue
of the journal Nature Communications.