A group of top researchers is focusing on understanding how an embryo’s developing pancreas recognize which cells produce insulin and which ones have other functions. This understanding is crucial in the use of stem cells, developed into beta cells that produce insulin, to treat type-1 diabetes.
Today, Lund University scientists have new discoveries to announce in this regard, and they will do it in the journal Cell, which is one of the top biomedical journals.
Diabetes researcher Henrik Semb’s team has been analyzing two vital scientific questions:
1. How are tubes formed in organs where they fulfill vital functions? For example, the tubes that filter urine in the kidneys, the tubes that carry blood in the blood vessels, and the tubes that carry air in the lungs.
2. How is the differentiation of cells, the development of immature cells into various mature ones, related to the formation of tubes?
These two processes are known to happen simultaneously in an embryo, but it was not known if they were related, until now. Henrik Semb’s research team can explain step by step how certain cells in the developing pancreas form miniature cavities that join together to create a system of tubes, and how cells that end up in different parts of this tube system are exposed to different environments, thus they develop in separate ways. Some produce insulin, others, enzymes that digest food in the intestines, and yet others take part in the tube’s construction.
This research team also discovered that there is a critical gene related to these processes, it is called Cdc42. They found this out through knock-out mice that had this gene removed. The lack of Cdc42 blocks the formation of tubes in the pancreas, thus, the dominant environment is like the one around enzyme-producing cells instead of the most important insulin-producing beta cells one.
These discoveries provide knowledge that is critical for the future of medical treatments. A new door has opened for the research on stem cell treatment for type-1 diabetes, given the new understanding of how immature cells grow into beta cells. This knowledge will also be valuable for diseases where cyst formation in the tubes produces organ failure, for example, in kidneys and liver.
Every important article published in Cell requires committed and lengthy research, and this is exactly what the Lund scientists have done. They have devoted years to studying tube formation, cell differentiation, and the role of Cdc42 in the mentioned processes.
Their secret resides in the team itself, formed by amazing scientists capable of keeping their passion alive and energy focused even when they were tempted to publish several partial findings in other journals. They definitely knew better.
If you wish to know more about stem cell research and their future medical potential, talk to your pharmaceutical consultants; they should be on top of the latest developments and market opportunities.
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