Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Crypt Cell Alchemy
21 April 2014

Crypt Cell Alchemy

In people with type-1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas don’t produce a hormone called insulin, leading to increased glucose levels in the blood. To control the problem, patients inject themselves with insulin. In the search for a better way to tackle diabetes, researchers have used stem cells to make new beta cells. Now, they may have a simpler strategy. By delivering three transcription factors – proteins that control gene activity – into mice, they transformed intestinal cells called crypt cells (stained green) into insulin-producing cells (red). The same combination of proteins turned human intestine cells grown in the dish into beta-like cells. So, if researchers can perfect this cellular alchemy to produce higher-quality beta-like cells, the intestines of diabetes patients could provide a ready supply of insulin-producing cells. These cells could then be given back to patients to regulate blood-sugar levels without the need for regular injections.

Written by Daniel Cossins

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