Scientists Able to Repair Insulin Producing Cells in Pancreas


In a recent study, scientists in Houston, Texas announced that they were able to convert liver cells in mice to produce insulin. A gene was injected into the mice, which caused the stem cells in their liver to help repair their pancreas and within several weeks, the blood sugar level of the mice was stabilized.

The research was led by Dr Lawrence Chan and Dr. Vijay Yechoor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who believe their discovery could one day lead to a cure for diabetes. However, one potential hurdle is that the gene that is injected into the liver, neurogenin3, is transported into the body in a virus that is toxic to humans.

The scientists observed that neurogenin3 had two distinct phases. When first injected it caused the liver cells to produce small amounts of insulin. This is only temporary though, as the liver cells will typically loose this ability in about 6 weeks.

Next, other cells begin to create larger amounts of insulin and mimic islet cells, which are the cells in the pancreas that create insulin. These cells began clustering around the blood vessels in the abdomen and eventually found their way to the pancreas, where they begin to produce insulin again.

The pancreas is an organ that is part of the digestive system and produces several important hormones, including insulin. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin, which is often linked to problems with the pancreas.

While this is not the first time that scientists have used liver cells to produce insulin, it is believed to be the first time that an understanding of the process and technique has been realized.

Dr. Chan stated that it would likely be some time before this process could be preformed in humans, but very optimistic in the use of the neurogenin3 to treat and possibly cure diabetes.


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