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!
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals
23.05.2018 | Brown University
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy