Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine revealed why it is so hard to use stem cells to make liver and pancreatic cells, and their research findings could lead to new treatments
for type 1 diabetes.
The chromosomes in the
laboratory stem cells take time to open, in the same sequence that occurs
during embryonic development. It is not until certain chromosomes reach the
open state that they respond to the added growth factors and become liver or
pancreatic cells, the researchers said.
Dr. Mike Sander, professor
of pediatrics and cellular and molecular medicine, and Director of the
Pediatric Diabetes Research Center at UCSD, said, "Our ability to generate
liver and pancreatic cells from stem cells has fallen behind the advances we've
made for other cell types. So we haven't yet been able to do things like test
new drugs on stem cell-derived liver and pancreatic cells. What we have learned
is that if we want to make specific cells from stem cells, we need ways to
predict how those cells and their chromosomes will respond to the growth
The study found that the
chromosomal regions that need to open before a stem cell can fully
differentiate are linked to regions where there are variations in certain
If a person was to inherit
a genetic variation in chromosomal region and doesn't open at the right time,
the person is more susceptible to a disease affecting that cell type.
The research team is
further working to investigate the role of these chromosomal regions and their
variations play in diabetes.
The study was funded by the
National Institutes of Health, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine,
the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Researchers from the
University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University and Ludwig Institute for
Cancer Research assisted with the study.