'Grow your own transplant' may be possible for men with type 1 diabetes

December 12, 2010

Men with type 1 diabetes may be able to grow their own insulin-producing cells from their testicular tissue, say Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) researchers who presented their findings today at the American Society of Cell Biology 50th annual meeting in Philadelphia.

Their laboratory and animal study is a proof of principle that human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) extracted from testicular tissue can morph into insulin-secreting beta islet cells normally found in the pancreas. And the researchers say they accomplished this feat without use of any of the extra genes now employed in most labs to turn adult stem cells into a tissue of choice.

"No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," says the study's lead investigator, G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Director of the Transgenic Core Facility at GUMC.

Given continuing progress, Gallicano says his strategy could provide a unique solution to treatment of individuals with type 1 diabetes (juvenile onset diabetes). Several novel therapies have been tried for these patients, but each has drawbacks. Transplanting islet cells from deceased donors can result in rejection, plus few such donations are available. Researchers have also cured diabetes in mice using induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells – adult stem cells that have been reprogrammed with other genes to behave like embryonic stem cells – but this technique can produce teratomas, or tumors, in transfected tissue, as well as problems stemming from the external genes used to create IPS cells, Gallicano says.

Instead of using IPS cells, the researchers turned to a readily available source of stem cells, the SSCs that are the early precursors to sperm cells. They retrieved these cells from deceased human organ donors.

Because SSCs already have the genes necessary to become embryonic stem cells, it is not necessary to add any new genes to coax them to morph into these progenitor cells, Gallicano says. "These are male germ cells as well as adult stem cells."

"We found that once you take these cells out of the testes niche, they get confused, and will form all three germ layers within several weeks," he says. "These are true, pluripotent stem cells."

The research team took 1 gram of tissue from human testes and produced about 1 million stem cells in the laboratory. These cells showed many of the biological markers that characterize normal beta islet cells.

They then transplanted those cells into the back of immune deficient diabetic mice, and were able to decrease glucose levels in the mice for about a week – demonstrating the cells were producing enough insulin to reduce hyperglycemia.

While the effect lasted only week, Gallicano says newer research has shown the yield can be substantially increased.

The research was funded in part by the American Diabetes Association, patient contributions to the GUMC Office of Advancement, support from GUMC diabetes specialist Stephen Clement, M.D., and a grant from GUMC.

Explore further: Study points to new direction for pancreas cell regeneration

Related Stories

The new source of islet cells

October 25, 2007

The shortage of islet cells limits the development of islet transplantation. One new approach was reported in the October 21 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology because of its great significance in enhancing the ...

Promising advances in islet cell transplants for diabetes

June 9, 2008

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have modified the procedure for islet cell transplantation and achieved insulin independence in diabetes patients with fewer but better-functioning pancreatic islet cells.

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

6 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

adamshegrud
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
wooo hooo
Its a good time to be a man

What am I saying that's almost every time!
la7dfa
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
Good news: We can cure diabetes.
Bad news: We have to rip out your cojones :P
SkiSci
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
"All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break em for noone...except to cure my diabetes"
Mercury_01
not rated yet Dec 13, 2010
so is this like a DIY kit from walmart? insert junk- receive insulin?
newsreader
not rated yet Dec 13, 2010

Wouldn't the newly transplanted cells still be vulnerable to the autoimmune response that originally caused the persons diabetes?
Ricochet
not rated yet Dec 13, 2010
It's possible, but maybe there'd be some substance they could mix with the produced insulin to kind of keep that from being an issue...
Now they just need to find a way to help women with their Diabetus.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.