A Stem-Cell Discovery Could Help Diabetics

By Alice Park, Time.com

Researchers are inching ever closer to bringing the latest stem-cell technologies from bench to bedside — and are, in the process, learning more about some diseases that long have remained medical black boxes.

This week, scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) reported the first success in generating new populations of insulin-producing cells using skin cells of Type 1 diabetes patients. The achievement involved the newer embryo-free technique for generating stem cells, and marked the first step toward building a treatment that could one day replace a patient’s faulty insulin-making cells with healthy, functioning ones.

The experiment, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also provided the first good model — in a petri dish — of how Type 1 diabetes develops, giving scientists a peek at what goes wrong in patients affected by the disease. Such knowledge could lead to not only new stem-cell-based treatments, but also novel drug therapies that might improve the symptoms of the disease.

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