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.
AdvertisementDr. 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 factors."
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 disease states.
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.