From stem cells to billions of human insulin-producing cells and a potential cure for diabetes
Human beta cells derived from stem cells (Credit: Melton Lab). Harvard stem cell researchers today announced that they have made a giant leap forward in the quest to find a truly effective treatment for type 1 diabetes, a condition that affects an estimated 3 million Americans at a cost of about $15 billion annually:
With human embryonic stem cells as a starting point, the scientists are for the first time able to produce, in the kind of massive quantities needed for cell transplantation and pharmaceutical purposes, human insulin-producing beta cells equivalent in most every way to normally functioning beta cells.
Doug Melton, who led the work and who 23 years ago, when his then infant son Sam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, dedicated his career to finding a cure for the disease, said he hopes to have human transplantation trials using the cells to be underway within a few years. “We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line,” said Melton, whose daughter Emma also has type 1 diabetes. A report on the new work has today been published by the journal Cell. Felicia W. Pagliuca, Jeff Millman, and Mads Gurtler of Melton’s lab are co-first authors on the Cell paper. The research group and paper authors include a Harvard undergraduate. (more…)