A cure for diabetes may have been found -- at least in men. Researchers have used slivers of testicular tissue to make millions of healthy replacements for the faulty cells that trigger the condition.
In experiments on mice, grafts of the lab-grown pancreatic cells produced enough insulin to control blood sugar levels in diabetic mice. Although the work is at an early stage, US researchers believe it could lead to a cure for men and boys with type-1 diabetes in perhaps just five years, reports the Daily Mail.
The researchers, from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, started with tiny samples of tissue from human testicles. Using a cocktail of vitamins and growth factors, they transformed them first into stem, or master cells, and then into the beta islet cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. The process took around five weeks, said a Georgetown University release.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, a hormone key to the conversion of sugar into energy, or the insulin that is made does not work properly.
In the latest study, immature cells that would normally go on to form sperm were turned into healthy insulin-producing cells. Layers of pancreatic cells were then grafted onto diabetic mice, where they produced enough insulin to control blood sugar levels for a week.
While this might not seem long, the researchers say it should be possible to make the cells work for much longer - and for them to produce enough insulin to benefit human diabetics. Researcher Ian Gallicano of Georgetown University believes the testicular cells, or spermatogonial stem cells, could succeed whether other potential diabetes cures have failed.
Using a man's own cells as the source of the treatment would sidestep any chance of the tissue being rejected by the body.
These findings were presented at American Society of Cell Biology's annual conference.