From nothing to a fully functioning pancreas. For most diabetics this is but a distant dream- while some may be able to get a pancreatic islet transplant, the closest the majority of people suffering diabetes mellitus will get to independence from their condition is an insulin pump.
However, a team from the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami Florida found that bone proteins “used to help bones mend” can also force cells in the pancreas to produce insulin, instead of the missing beta cells that typically make this hormone in non-diabetics. What this will mean for diabetics like me, is that they will not have to do regular injections as to keep their blood sugar levels in check, just like non-diabetics.
In this form of therapy, non-beta cells in the pancreas are exposed to “a growth factor called BMP-7” that transforms them into insulin-producing cells. This method was tested on diabetic mice whose “beta cells had been destroyed artificially with a chemical”, and the therapy led to these cells behaving just like healthy insulin-producing beta cells. However, this has not yet been tested on humans, so it is yet to be seen if it will work. Nonetheless, it is very encouraging to see that a great variety of potential cures are being developed to combat this condition which blights approximately 40 million people worldwide.
Source: Diabetic pancreas cells made to produce insulin by bone protein from newscientist.co.uk, by Andy Coghlan.