Liver cells could be the cure for diabetes

by Joseph C. Gallo — 

While the pancreatic cells that normally create insulin are unable to do so in a diabetic patient, the transplant allows liver cells to create the necessary insulin to help digest sugars at the necessary rate.

While the pancreatic cells that normally create insulin are unable to do so in a diabetic patient, the transplant allows liver cells to create the necessary insulin to help digest sugars at the necessary rate.

There is a new weapon in the fight against diabetes. This weapon is not found by joining a gym or taking insulin but is actually found within the human body. Where is this weapon and who discovered it?

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report by Israel’s Sheba Medical Center showing that doctors have been able to transplant insulin-producing donor cells into diabetic patients. While the pancreatic cells that normally create insulin are unable to do so in a diabetic patient, the transplant allows liver cells to create the necessary insulin to help digest sugars at the necessary rate.

Although this is a procedure doctors can now perform, there are a few risks involved, including the possibility of the patient rejecting the new cells and a limited supply of donor cells.

When the transplant was done in mice, human adult liver cells were treated with a factor that controls pancreatic development in the embryo. This factor, called PDX-1, stimulated the cells to behave in the same way as insulin-producing pancreatic cells. These cells began to produce the hormone and secrete it in response to blood sugar levels, which gradually lowered the animals’ sugar levels.

The team believes their work will lead to diabetic patients one day being able to manufacture their own insulin-producing cells.

 

Joseph C. Gallo is a free-lance writer. 212-896-1269 or jgallo@kcsa.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 3, June/July 2005.

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