In­sulin-pro­duc­ing mini-stom­achs: a game-changer for di­a­betes?

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

THE key to a new cel­lu­lar ther­apy for dia betes may lie in the stom­ach, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of a new study; re­searchers have used stom­ach cells to cre­ate “min­ior­gans” that pro­duce in­sulin when trans­planted in mice. In the US, around 29.1 mil­lion peo­ple have di­a­betes. Of these, around 1.25 mil­lion have type 1 di­a­betes, where the de­struc­tion of beta cells in the pan­creas halts in­sulin pro­duc­tion, lead­ing to in­ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tion of blood glu­cose lev­els.

In an at­tempt to find a cure for the con­di­tion, re­searchers have spent years search­ing for ways to re­place these in­sulin-pro­duc­ing beta cells. Last Oc­to­ber, for ex­am­ple, Medical News To­day re­ported on a study in which re­searchers re­pro­grammed pan­cre­atic duct-de­rived cells (HDDCs) to be­have like beta cells and pro­duce and se­crete in­sulin.

But this lat­est study - pub­lished in the jour­nal Cell Stem Cell - sug­gests that cells from the lower sec­tion of the stom­ach, known as the py­lorus re­gion, show the great­est po­ten­tial to be re­pro­grammed to act like beta cells. Se­nior study au­thor Qiao Zhou, of the De­part­ment of Stem Cell and Re­gen­er­a­tive Bi­ol­ogy at Har­vard Univer­sity in Bos­ton, MA, and col­leagues ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered mice to ex­press three genes that have the abil­ity to con­vert cells into beta cells.

This en­abled the team to pin­point which cells in the mice were most likely to have in­sulin-pro­duc­ing po­ten­tial. “We looked all over, from the nose to the tail of the mouse,” says Zhou. “We dis­cov­ered, sur­pris­ingly, that some of the cells in the py­lorus re­gion of the stom­ach are most amenable to con­ver­sion to beta cells. This tis­sue ap­pears to be the best start­ing ma­te­rial.” The py­lorus re­gion is the area that joins the stom­ach to the small in­tes­tine.

The re­searchers ex­plain that when they re­pro­grammed var­i­ous cells to be­have like beta cells, the py­lorus cells had the strong­est re­sponse to high blood glu­cose lev­els in the mice, pro­duc­ing in­sulin in or­der to bring their glu­cose lev­els back to nor­mal. To test the ef­fec­tive­ness of these cells, the re­searchers de­stroyed the beta cells of two groups of di­a­betes mouse mod­els. One group had their py­lorus cells re­pro­grammed to act like beta cells, while a con­trol group did not un­dergo py­lorus cell re­pro­gram­ming. While the mice in the con­trol group died within 8 weeks, those that had their py­lorus cells re­pro­grammed main­tained their in­sulin and glu­cose lev­els for the en­tire mon­i­tor­ing pe­riod, which was up to 6 months. This sug­gests that the re­pro­grammed py­lorus cells com­pen­sated for the lack of beta cells. Asked why py­lorus cells ap­pear to be the best cells to con­vert for in­sulin pro­duc­tion, Zhou told MNT: “From our molec­u­lar and phys­i­o­log­i­cal stud­ies, py­lorus de­rived beta-cells ap­pear to most closely re­sem­ble na­tive beta cells in the pan­creas and there­fore can do a bet­ter job at reg­u­lat­ing blood glu­cose.”

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