SCIENTISTS at Edinburgh University yesterday revealed they have moved a step closer to a cure for diabetes, thanks to groundbreaking stem-cell research.
The team has overcome a major hurdle in creating pancreas and liver cells in the laboratory. Current techniques lead to a mixture of cells being created by stem cells taken from embryos – and if implanted they can lead to tumours forming. But the Edinburgh team has found a way of purifying the cells.
This means only liver and pancreas cells – known as endodermal cells – are produced. The cells constantly renew themselves in the lab, removing the need to harvest cells constantly from new embryos. The team claims the cells could be injected into diabetics, potentially curing them of their dependence on insulin injections.
Dr Josh Brickman, of the university's Institute for Stem Cell Research and Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: "What we have done that is significant is, instead of just taking cells from embryonic stem cells and pushing them towards becoming liver and pancreas, we took them and pushed them towards the first step in becoming liver and pancreas cells. We then purified those cells away from the rest and developed them. This is the first time this has been done."
He added that the process would have to undergo rigorous testing before it could be considered for use in humans.