Dr. Henrik Semb and his team have been able to produce insulin-producing beta cell using human stem cell. Their discovery is going to tackle the treatment of diabetes with stem cells in a novel and more efficient manner. Dr. Semb is a Professor and Head of Department at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center and the faculty for Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.
Dr. Semb claimed, “We have been able now to be more efficient in generating insulin-producing beta cells from human stem cells.” The stem cells are a group of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. These cells are generally characterized by their potential to differentiate into different cell types such as skin cell, muscle cell, bone cell and many more.
The beta cells are unique cells in the pancreas that produce, store and release the hormone insulin. Insulin functions as the blood sugar regulator and is essential for the treatment of diabetes. Moreover, progenitor cells in the pancreas are the cells that have not matured yet to the beta cells. These are the cell signals that guide their polarity of change in order to become a specific cell type in different organs, in this case, insulin-producing cells. In fact, cell polarity is the sense of direction for progenitor cells to form the tube where they can reside in and mature to the insulin-producing cells.
Dr. Henrik Semb said, “we have been able to identify which signals convert the progenitor cells to the insulin-producing cells.” Cell polarity plays its part here, as it decides how the stem cell will mature. Dr. Henrik continued, “By identifying the signals that instruct mouse progenitor cells to become cells that make tubes and later insulin-producing beta cells, we can transfer this knowledge to human stem cells to more robustly make beta cells.”
“It turns out that the same signal the so-called epidermal growth factor (EGF) pathway-control both the formation of pipes and beta cells through polarity changes. Therefore the development of pancreatic progenitor into beta cells depends on their orientation in the pipes. It is a simple mechanism, and by affecting the progenitor’s cells polarity we can control their conversion into beta cells”, says assistant professor Pia Nyeng, member of the research group with Dr. Henrik.
Around 415 million people suffer from diabetes. The research carried out by Dr. Henrik, and his team will form a milestone not only in diabetes treatment but also the treatment for a number of other diseases. This discovery has made the treatment more efficient and less costly.