There has been a lot of coverage in the newspapers today, including the Daily Mail, about a breakthrough in stem cell cloning linked to type 1 diabetes.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature, showed that stem cells capable of changing form into any cell in the body could be created from skin cells, donated by a woman with type 1 diabetes.
The New York scientists changed the skin cells into stem cells using a similar technique to that used to clone Dolly the Sheep, in which genetic material from one cell is transferred into another.
Once the stem cells were created, the researchers were able to prompt them to form into pancreatic beta cells.
This technique is still in its very early stages, and the scientists have yet to try implanting the newly created beta cells into someone with type 1 diabetes, but it could lead the way to more successful beta cell replacement therapy in the future.
If the technique proves successful on a wider scale it means that a patient could potentially have a pancreatic beta cell transplant created from their own skin cells. This would mean that unlike current transplant therapy, they would not have to take potentially harmful immunosuppressive drugs to stop the transplant being rejected as the cells would be a genetic match.
The researchers hope that this technique could also help develop personalised therapies for other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis and could help to replace or repair damaged bones.
Karen Addington, CEO of JDRF said: ‘The 400,000 people in the UK living with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day – via multiple injections or a pump – simply to stay alive. It requires constant management every day.
‘The results of this study are interesting and we look forward to seeing the results of continued exploration. Further research will be necessary to understanding its potential.’
JDRF-funded researcher Dr Tim Tree, based at Kings College London, is also working on how to improve the success of beta cell transplants. He and his team are looking at ways to manipulate the immune cells that are involved in the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells to prevent or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes.