Insulin-Producing Cells Created from Skin Cells May Cure Diabetes

Transplanting insulin-producing cells under the skin of patients with diabetes shows promise.

A novel approach that transforms stem cells into insulin-producing cells may lead to a cure for diabetes.

In a new study published by Scientific Reports, researchers created insulin-producing cells from skin cells.

The authors plan to transplant these cells under the skin of patients with diabetes to improve treatment options for these patients. If effective, this may even lead to a cure for the condition.

"This study is a step towards discovering how ‘stand-in’ cells can secrete insulin in the body," said researcher Helge Ræder, PhD.

Patients with diabetes must undergo life-long treatment with insulin and other costly drugs to mitigate potentially life-threating comorbidities, including heart disease. Patients with diabetes have a higher risk of experiencing stroke, nerve conditions, kidney disease, vision problems, and slow-healing wounds.

The long-term goal of the researchers is to replace insulin and blood glucose testing with insulin-producing cell therapy. These cells are able to automatically secrete insulin to control blood glucose levels, according to the study.

The authors believe that the cells can be implanted underneath the skin through a capsule containing insulin-producing cells derived from the patients’ own skin cells, according to the study.

"Our study is a step further in the spare part or regenerative medicine, where a lot may go wrong but where a successful approach may cure diabetes," Dr Ræder said.

A recent CDC report indicated that more than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes and prediabetes. Providing a cure for these patients would be life-changing and could result in significant cost savings to healthcare systems worldwide.

Currently, numerous researchers are looking for innovative methods to restore insulin production in patients with diabetes. Methods that focus around insulin-producing cells have been popular, according to the study.

"There is a big marked out there for those who can commercialize successful treatment with this approach. Today 400 million people have diabetes worldwide," Dr Ræder concluded.