Last week, Japanese doctors announced
that they had 'cured' type I diabetes by transplantation of living islet cells. The procedure, however, required a living donor to put him or herself at increased risk of developing diabetes him or herself; a better source of islet cells is needed. In today's PLOS Medicine
, Stanford researchers report that they have coaxed
neural stem cells into becoming insulin producing cells similar to islet cells, and when they were implanted in mice, they worked as islet cells would be expected to do.
This is a long way from being a real solution in humans, but is exciting not only as a prospect for treating diabetes, but also as evidence of how progenator cells can be programmed to differentiate in useful ways - and, as the cells in question maintained some neuron-like properties, how this may not be entirely as simple as proposed. Fascinating work.