Washington, Nov 21 : A team of scientists in Singapore has developed an unlimited number of pure insulin-producing cells from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs).
The researchers found that these cells, which according to electron microscopy studies have the same sub-cellular structures as the insulin-producing cells naturally found in the pancreas, were highly effective in treating diabetes in the mouse model.
They found that the transplants of pure insulin-producing cells reduced the blood glucose levels of diabetic mice with high blood glucose levels.
The experiments, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), which is under Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM ) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), also showed that the subsequent removal of the transplanted cells from the diabetic mice restored the blood glucose to its original high level.
None of the diabetic mice involved in the transplant experiments developed teratoma, which are a type of tumour often associated with ESCs and which could complicate their use in human therapeutic treatment.
Also, the pure insulin-producing cells managed to retain their insulin-production and glucose-sensing capacity over time.
The new achievement provides proof of principle that this strategy could be applied to human ESCs to obtain similar pure insulin-producing cells.
Dr. Lim Sai Kiang, an IMB principal investigator and a research associate professor at the YLLSoM Department of Surgery, said: "Our ability to isolate and then multiply insulin-producing cells from differentiating ESCs provides an unlimited supply of pure insulin-producing cells to study in unprecedented detail many aspects of these cells."
Dr. Li Guodong, a research associate professor at National University Medical Institutes, YLLSoM, NUS, added: "Besides providing a tool to facilitate basic research in test tubes and animals, these insulin-producing cells may be also used to replace the isolated native pancreatic cells that are hard to obtain in a large amount, for pharmacological tests".
The findings were published in two separate papers in the July and August 2008 online versions of the journal Stem Cell Research.