BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Diabetes transplants move closer
Diabetes jab
Some diabetics face daily injections
A new source of insulin-producing cells could improve the chances of an operation which could cure diabetes in some patients.

People with type-1 diabetes have lost the ability to make the vital hormone insulin because beta cells in the pancreas have been destroyed.

They rely on regular insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels and keep them healthy. They also have to avoid very sugary foods.

However, scientists now say that certain cells found in adult diabetics can be transformed into fully-functioning beta cells.

This paves the way for a treatment which would replace the missing beta cells and reduce or completely remove the need for extra insulin.

In addition, because the source of the cells is the patient, there would be no danger of conventional immune system rejection.

Stem cell

A team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US worked on cells called nestin-positive islet derived progenitor cells (NIPs).

These are a type of stem cell - a master cell which has the ability to develop into a multitude of different cell types.


We might be able to stimulate those cells to become truly functional

Joel Habener, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Scientists in many different research areas are working on ways of stimulating stem cells to develop into everything from brain cells to muscle.

In this case, they found that NIPs could develop into beta cells when mixed with a hormone found naturally in the human intestine.

The same hormone appears to make beta cells secrete insulin.

Since NIPs can be found in the pancreas of diabetics, potentially they could be extracted, grown up into beta cells and then transplanted back.

Less risk

Dr Joel Habener, who led the study, said: "If we can transplant beta cells grown from a patient's own stem cells, the risk of rejection is gone.

"And now with the addition of this hormone, we might be able to stimulate those cells to become truly functional."

A spokesman for Diabetes UK described the research as "potentially exciting".

Dr Moira Murphy, its director of research, said: "There is a clear aim to find a way of generating adequate supplies of insulin-producing cells.

"However, this research is in its infancy and there is a lot of developmental work to be done before this could be used in practice."

The majority of diabetes patients have the type-II version of the disease.

This involves a gradual deterioration of their body's ability to produce insulin and control blood sugar, and can be treated with extra insulin coupled with dietary restrictions.

The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.

See also:

09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
22 Sep 00 | Health
20 Feb 02 | England
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes