McKelvey School of Engineering School of Medicine

Diabetes in mice cured rapidly using human stem cell strategy

Shown are clusters of human insulin-secreting beta cells, as seen under a microscope. Jeffrey R. Millman and his team produced these cells from stem cells, using a new, efficient technique. The cells were able to rapidly cure diabetes in mice for at least nine months. (Image: Millman Laboratory)

Researchers have converted human stem cells into insulin-producing cells and demonstrated in mice infused with such cells that blood sugar levels can be controlled and diabetes functionally cured for nine months.

The findings, from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, are published online Feb. 24 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“These mice had very severe diabetes with blood sugar readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood — levels that could be fatal for a person — and when we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels had returned to normal and stayed that way for many months,” said principal investigator Jeffrey R. Millman, assistant professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Several years ago, the same researchers discovered how to convert human stem cells into pancreatic beta cells that make insulin. When such cells encounter blood sugar, they secrete insulin. Still, previous work has had its limitations and had not effectively controlled diabetes in mice.

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