21 April 2014
Crypt Cell Alchemy
In people with type-1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas don’t produce a hormone called insulin, leading to increased glucose levels in the blood. To control the problem, patients inject themselves with insulin. In the search for a better way to tackle diabetes, researchers have used stem cells to make new beta cells. Now, they may have a simpler strategy. By delivering three transcription factors – proteins that control gene activity – into mice, they transformed intestinal cells called crypt cells (stained green) into insulin-producing cells (red). The same combination of proteins turned human intestine cells grown in the dish into beta-like cells. So, if researchers can perfect this cellular alchemy to produce higher-quality beta-like cells, the intestines of diabetes patients could provide a ready supply of insulin-producing cells. These cells could then be given back to patients to regulate blood-sugar levels without the need for regular injections.
Written by Daniel Cossins
Image courtesy of Ben Stanger and colleagues
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Copyright held by original authors
Research published in Cell, March 2014