Transplantation of insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells shows great promise as a treatment for type 1 diabetes, but development of this therapy has been hampered by a severe shortage of donor beta-cells, which are obtained from decreased human donors.
In research published in the October issue of Nature Biotechnology, Ji-Won Yoon, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Director of the Rosalind Franklin Comprehensive Diabetes Center at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Dr. Naoya Kobayashi (Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry), and their international colleagues describe a "reversibly immortalized" cell line that can supply large amounts of insulin-producing human beta-cells. Ultimately, a cell line of this sort may provide an abundant source of beta-cells for transplantation and an alternative to beta-cells from cadavers.
Type 1 diabetes results from the loss of insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas. Because the supply of beta-cells from cadavers is insufficient to meet the needs of 99% of diabetic patients, alternative sources of beta-cells would be highly desirable. Previous efforts to coax mature human beta-cells to survive and replicate in the laboratory have not succeeded, however, because the cells died or lost their ability to produce insulin in response to sugar stimulation.