Washington:  In a breakthrough discovery, scientists have developed a new technique to create insulin producing cells that may treat diabetes.

Currently one of the most promising therapies in the fight against diabetes is the replacement of beta cells. In the replacement therapy for type 1 diabetes, human pancreatic duct-derived cells (HDDCs) are an attractive source of cells.

In this study, the group reprogrammed pancreatic duct-derived cells (HDDCs) to behave like beta cells and secrete insulin within the pancreas, whilst responding to glucose. The researchers used messenger RNA (mRNA) of a transcription factor – a protein that controls which genes are turned off or on in the genome – called MAFA. The mRNA is transformed into protein before binding to cellular DNA in order to orchestrate the changes in cellular functions. This technique allowed the researchers to avoid any potential genetic modification of the target cells.

Lead investigator Philippe Lysy said that their system for cellular reprogramming with transcription factors using mRNA opened doors for experiments in other scientific fields with the objective to produce cells with a new function in the context of diseases with a loss-of-function.

The research group has already developed a mouse model that allows them to transplant their manufactured cells into the diabetic mice and follow-up on their disease.

They use a ‘good laboratory practice (GLP)’ facility to produce batches of cells that could eventually be transplanted into human patients with diabetes.

Lysy said that their objectives were to evaluate the conditions that allowed banking of their reprogrammed cells in clinically compatible procedures.

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