Could Stem cells make interspecies transplantation possible for Type 1 Diabetes?

Research using mice has shown successful reversal of type 1 diabetes using cells transplanted from rat grown pancreases. This could bring us a step closer to using human transplantable tissue to treat type 1 diabetes, which accounts for around 10% of diabetes worldwide.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the islet cells of the pancreas, which produce the hormone insulin, are attacked and destroyed by the pancreas.

Without insulin, blood sugar cannot be regulated and levels become too high. If left untreated, high blood sugar can lead to various complications such as stroke heart disease, kidney disease and eye problems. Currently type 1 diabetes can only be managed through blood glucose monitoring, and insulin therapy, but cannot be cured.

Study using mice yields positive results

The study, carried out by researchers at Stanford University Medical Center in California, and University of Tokyo, Japan, successfully transplanted functional insulin producing cells grown in rats into mice with type 1 diabetes.

These rats were implanted with pluripotent stem cells from mice. Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to form any other cell or tissue.

As a result of genetic engineering, the rats did not have the ability to develop their own pancreas, therefore depending on the implanted stem cells for pancreatic development.

Blood glucose levels in the mice were normalized after more than one year, and only five days of immunosuppressive treatment was needed.

This study is part of a series of investigations into whether interspecies transplantation can be an effective long term treatment for type 1 diabetes.

A previous study was carried out growing rat pancreases in mice. The organs were functional, but only grew to the size of mouse pancreases.

Human treatment on the horizon?

Although the study points to a possibility of interspecies transplantation becoming a feasible option in the future, authors note that this “would require organ generation in animals closer to humans in size or in evolutionary distance such as sheep, pigs, or non-human primates.”

This is a very early stage for use of stem cells in this way, and much more research, and ethical consideration is required before it can become viable as a human treatment.

Interspecies transplantation is a common area of research within the use of stem cells, Ajan Reginald has recently reported on several studies using mice in first round trials, such as ‘Stem cells easing the pain of spinal cord injuries in Mice’, and ‘Stem Cells Restore Long-Term Vision in Mice Using Regenerative Vision Therapy’.

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