Diabetics could soon 'grow their own insulin'

In its research, a team at Georgetown University Medical Centre has used tiny slivers of testicular tissue to make millions of healthy replacements for the faulty cells behind diabetes.

In experiments on mice, grafts of the laboratory-grown pancreatic cells produced enough insulin to control the blood sugar levels in diabetic mice.

Although the work is at an early stage, the American researchers believe it could lead to a cure for men and boys with type 1 diabetes in perhaps just five years, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

In the research, immature cells that normally go on to form sperm were turned into healthy insulin-producing cells.

The scientists started with tiny samples of tissue from human testicles. Using a cocktail of vitamins and growth factors, they transformed them first into stem, or "master, cells", and then into the beta islet cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. The process took around five weeks.

Layers of pancreatic cells were then grafted onto diabetic mice, where they produced enough insulin to control blood sugar levels for a week.

While this might not seem long, the scientists say it should be possible to make the cells work for much longer -- and for them to produce enough insulin to benefit human diabetics.

Lead scientist Dr Ian Gallicano believes that the testicular cells, or spermatogonial stem cells, could succeed whether other potential diabetes cures have failed.

He said: "No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know that spermatogonial stem cells have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield."

Using a man's own cells as the source of the treatment would sidestep any chance of the tissue being rejected by the body, say scientists hoping to test the technique on men for the first time within months.

If large-scale trials show it to be safe and effective, the transplant technique could be in widespread us in as little as five years, they say.

Adapting the technique to eggs instead of sperm could allow female diabetics to eventually benefit too, the scientists claim.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, a hormone key to the conversion of sugar into energy, or the insulin that is made does not work properly.

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