Pancreatic islet cells play an essential role in managing blood glucose levels. These are the cells that produce insulin and control blood sugar. However, they require strong blood vessels and blood flow to work effectively. One of the challenges of trying to transplant these cells is that they lose blood vessels in the process.
Scientists mainly from Yokohama City University may have found a way to overcome this issue and improve the efficacy of transplanted pancreatic islet cells. To improve blood flow, they cultured pancreatic islet tissue with both endothelial cells and mesenchymal stem cells. Endothelial cells are what line blood vessels and mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to develop into different types of cells. This combination led to pancreatic islet tissue that contained its own network of blood vessels.
When transplanted into mice with severe type 1 diabetes, the tissue allowed for a strong blood flow which in turn helped to better control blood glucose levels. More than 90% of diabetic mice implanted with this tissue survived for at least five days. The diabetic mice who only received pancreatic islet cells but not the tissue with the blood vessel network only had a survival rate of around 40%. And in those mice who did not receive any type of transplant, nearly all passed away.
The scientists are in the process of expanding their research beyond the use of endothelial and mesenchymal stem cells to exploring the potential of human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. They are hopeful that this will lead to another treatment option for individuals with type 1 diabetes.
The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see how this research progresses and the results it yields in terms of treating and managing type 1 diabetes. While not involved with this particular study, the DRC supports early career scientists in pursuing peer-reviewed, novel research projects geared toward the treatment, prevention, and cure of type 1 diabetes, as well as improving quality of life for those living with the disease. To learn more and support these efforts, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.