First successful reprogramming of liver cells to pancreas progenitor cells based on a single factor
It is now possible to reprogram cells from the liver into the precursor cells that give rise to the pancreas by altering the activity of a single gene. A team of researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) has now accomplished this feat in mice. Their results should make it feasible to help diabetic patients through cell therapy.
This is a 3-D map of liver and pancreatic buds in a mouse embryo. Cells of the pancreas are marked in red and green, while liver cells appear in blue.
Image: Francesca Spagnoli, MDC
In patients suffering from type I diabetes, their immune system turns against their own bodies and destroys a type of pancreatic cell called islet cells. Without these cells, the pancreas is unable to produce the hormone insulin and blood glucose rises, which leads to diabetic disease. At that point, such patients need to inject insulin for the rest of their lives.
A way to provide a lasting help to the afflicted may be to grow new pancreatic cells outside of the body. MDC group leader and researcher Dr. Francesca has been pursuing the idea of reprogramming liver cells to become pancreatic cells. Dr. Spagnoli's team has now succeeded in thrusting liver cells into an "identity crisis" -- in other words, to reprogram them to take on a less specialized state -- and then stimulate their development into cells with pancreatic properties.
Promising success in animal experiments
A gene called TGIF2 plays a crucial role in the process. TGIF2 is active in the tissue of the pancreas but not in the liver. For the current study Dr. Nuria Cerda Esteban, at the time a PhD student in Dr. Spagnoli's lab, tested how cells from mouse liver behave when they are given additional copies of the TGIF2 gene.
In the experiment, cells first lost their hepatic (liver) properties, then acquired properties of the pancreas. The researchers transplanted the modified cells into diabetic mice. Soon after this intervention, the animals' blood glucose levels improved, indicating that the cells indeed were replacing the functions of the lost islet cells. The results bring cell therapies for human diabetic patients one step closer to reality.
The obvious next step is to translate the findings from the mouse to humans. The Spagnoli lab is currently testing the strategy on human liver cells in a project funded in 2015 by the European Research Council. "There are differences between mice and humans, which we still have to overcome," Spagnoli says. "But we are well on the path to developing a 'proof of concept' for future therapies."
Nuria Cerdá-Esteban et al. (2017): "Stepwise reprogramming of liver cells to a pancreas progenitor state by the transcriptional regulator Tgif2." Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms14127
Vera Glaßer | EurekAlert!
At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History
New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy