Before the pancreas is a pancreas, it is just two tiny bumps--two groups of cells sprouting from a central tube. What makes these cells bud off from the main group? How do they go on to make all the cell types of the mature pancreas? These are the kinds of questions that drive the research efforts of Vanderbilt developmental biologist Chris Wright and colleagues. The answers could pave the way toward limitless supplies of pancreatic cells for transplantation therapy of diabetes.
"It has been established that islet cell transplantation can solve the diabetes problem," said Wright, referring to studies carried out in Edmonton, Canada and elsewhere. "The problem is having a suitable and sufficient source of transplantation material."
Donated pancreases and the technical expertise required to isolate functioning islet cells--the pancreatic cells that produce insulin--will not meet the demand, Wright said. An alternative, he said, is to produce insulin-secreting cells from embryonic or other stem cells.
John Howser | EurekAlert!
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