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DRI Answers Stem Cell Question - Part 2

by Diabetes Research Institute on Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 9:32 am on T1 Diabetes Cure - Global Headquarters and Diabetes Research Institute Facebook pages.

Happy August and DRI Thursday! Last week we heard from Dr. Juan Dominguez-Bendala, DRI’s Director of Stem Cell Development for Translational Research, as he explained to one of our Facebook friends exactly what type of stem cell research is underway in the DRI labs.  Today we’ll share the second half of his response to her question. 
Transforming the other pancreatic tissue 
Our team is also testing ways to turn one type of cell directly into an insulin-producing cell in a process known as transdifferentiation. In this context, we are testing ways to turn non-islet tissue of the pancreas, or acinar, into insulin-producing cells.
Acinar is involved in the secretion of digestive juices and is the most abundant component of the pancreas. Because it is plentiful, and typically discarded after an islet isolation procedure, acinar tissue is a good candidate for transdifferentiation.  Scientists have already shown that acinar cells can be turned into insulin-producing cells by forcing the expression of three "master" genes found in beta cells.
Umbilical Cord Blood 
Cord blood stem cells are derived from newborn umbilical cord blood. Studies have suggested that these cells can be coaxed into becoming insulin-producing beta cells as well as immune cells that could enhance acceptance of the cell replacement strategies.

Our initial data is promising, suggesting that cord blood stem cells can be easily harvested, grown in the laboratory to large numbers and can be driven to insulin-producing cells.  We are working to improve protocols to increase the number of cells that turn into insulin-producing cells.
Adipose Tissue 
Together with our collaborators in Milan, Italy, we are exploring the possibility that stem cells obtained from body fat may represent an excellent source of beta cells. In preliminary studies, it was shown that a portion of these adipose-derived cells was able to transform into insulin-producing cells.
We are committed to exploring the potential of this and other sources of stem cells to identify the most reliable and plentiful source of insulin-producing tissue to restore natural insulin function.
Master Regulatory Signals
MicroRNAs are tiny molecules that regulate key biological processes in our bodies, such as cell growth and the development of stem cells into functional, adult cells.
We identified one such regulator, called miRNA-7, which appears 200 times more frequently in insulin-producing islets than in other non-islet tissue of the pancreas. As a result, miRNA-7 is believed to be involved in expanding the number of islets and increasing insulin production. By better understanding miRNA-7 and the role it may play in regulating islet development and insulin production, we may identify new strategies for clinical therapies in the treatment of diabetes.
MicroRNA may also be a powerful marker to predict the development of type 1 diabetes. One of our preliminary studies showed that patients with type 1 diabetes had a dramatic increase of a specific miRNA compared to those without diabetes.
I hope this information has helped!
As always, you can find even more information on this topic (and many more) on our website!



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