10 Oct Embryonic stem cells advance diabetes cure
Madison, Wis. – Three UW-Madison scientists have invented a method of directing embryonic stem cells to turn into pancreatic islet cells, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) announced last week. The procedure has the potential to greatly increase the number of islet cells available for transplantation into diabetic patients.
The three researchers, Jon Odorico, Brenda W. Kahan, and Nathan R. Treff, have applied for a patent.
In Type I diabetes, pancreatic cells that normally produce insulin have been destroyed. Patients control the disease by injecting insulin and monitoring their blood for glucose levels. Recently, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, over 300 diabetics have received transplants of pancreatic islet cells from donated organs, an effective technique but with limited promise due to organ shortages.
Using embryonic stem cells to find ways to treat diseases is considered one of the Holy Grails of current stem cell research. Diseases that might be treated by transplanting cells generated from human embryonic stem cells include Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, traumatic spinal cord injury, Purkinje cell degeneration, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, heart disease, and vision and hearing loss.