Scientists Isolate Pancreatic Stem Cells In Mice

shutterstock_45037957Scientists in the Netherlands have successfully isolated and grown stem cells in mice that can develop into cells that make up the pancreas. This could pave the way for the repair and replacement of damaged pancreatic cells that produce insulin, which can someday treat diseases such as diabetes. The results are reported in The EMBO Journal.

The research team, headed by Dr. Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute has found a way to determine the fates of stem cells into either hormone-producing beta cells or pancreatic duct cells and produce them in large numbers. In order to trigger the stem cells to grow  and divide into the two types of pancreatic cells, cell signaling molecules known as Wnts and a protein called Lgr5 are essential to the process. However, the signaling pathways and the molecules are inactive in the adult pancreas.

“We have found a way to activate the Wnt pathway to produce an unlimited expansion of pancreatic stem cells isolated from mice,” says Clevers. “By changing the growth conditions we can select two different fates for the stem cells and generate large numbers of either hormone-producing beta cells or pancreatic duct cells,” he further added.

The study involved altering the pancreases of mice to allow the duct cells to proliferate and differentiate. Some of the cells produced were capable of self-renewal. The scientists were then able to culture the cells to generate large numbers of pancreatic cells or as tiny clumps of tissues known as organoids.

Treatment of diseases associated with the pancreas such as diabetes have been limited due to the lack of cell culture systems that will allow scientists to grow replacement tissues in the lab to replace the damaged pancreatic cells. Alternative methods such as tissue transplants are limited because of the lack of donors as well as the possibility of tissue rejection by the body. The new discovery may someday aid in helping scientists develop a cell culture to grow and produce pancreatic cells as possible treatment.

Clevers further stated, “This work is still at a very early stage and further experiments are needed before we can use such an approach for the culture of human cells but the results are a promising proof-of-concept,”

Source: ScienceDaily


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