"Now we know how it works," said Chan, director of the federally designed Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center at BCM and chief of the division of endocrinology in BCM's department of medicine. "The answer is adult stem cells."
A gene called neurogenin3 proved critical to inducing cells in the liver to produce insulin on a continuing basis, said Chan and Dr. Vijay Yechoor, assistant professor of medicine-endocrinology and first author of the report that appears in the current issue of the journal Developmental Cell. The research team used a disarmed virus called a vector to deliver the gene to the livers of diabetic mice by a procedure commonly known as gene therapy.
"The mice responded within a week," said Yechoor. The levels of sugar in their blood plummeted to normal and stayed that way for the rest of their normal lives.
The quick response generated more questions as did the length of time that the animals stayed healthy.
They found that there was a two-step response. At first, the neurogenin3 gene goes into the mature liver cells and causes them to make small quantities of insulin – enough to drop sugar levels to normal, said Yechoor.
"This is a transient effect," he said. "Liver cells lose the capacity to make insulin after about six weeks."
However, they found that other cells that made larger quantities of insulin showed up later, clustered around the portal veins (blood vessels that carry blood from the intestines and abdominal organs to the liver).
"They look similar to normal pancreatic islet cells (that make insulin normally)," said Yechoor.
They found that these "islet" cells came from a small population of adult stem cells usually found near the portal vein. Only a few are needed usually because they serve as a safety net in case of liver injury. When that occurs, they quickly activate to form mature liver cells or bile duct cells.
However, neurogenin3 changes their fates, directing them down a path to becoming insulin-producing islet cells located in the liver. The mature liver cell cannot make this change because its fate appears to be fixed before exposure to neurogenin3.
The islet cells in the liver look similar to those made by pancreas after an injury, said Yechoor.
"If we didn't use neurogenin3, none of this would happen," he said. "Neurogenin3 is necessary and sufficient to produce these changes."
Chan cautioned that much more work is needed before similar results could be seen in humans. The gene therapy they undertook in the animals used a disarmed viral vector that could still have substantial toxic effects in humans.
"The concept is important because we can induce normal adult stem cells to acquire a new cell fate. It might even be applicable to regenerating other organs or tissues using a different gene from other types of adult stem cells," he said.
Finding a way to use the treatment in human sounds easier than it is, he said. The environment in which cells grow appears to be an important part of the cell fate determination.
However, he and Yechoor plan to continue their work with the eventual goal of providing a workable treatment for people with diabetes.
Dipali Pathak | EurekAlert!
Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity
20.11.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
20.11.2017 | Life Sciences
20.11.2017 | Trade Fair News
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences