Scientists use uterine stem cells to treat diabetes

September 14, 2011
Yale researchers use uterine stem cells to treat diabetes
This is a slide of insulin-producing cells. Credit: Hugh Taylor, Yale University

Controlling diabetes may someday involve mining stem cells from the lining of the uterus, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new study published in the journal Molecular Therapy. The team treated diabetes in mice by converting cells from the uterine lining into insulin-producing cells.

The endometrium or uterine lining, is a source of . These cells generate uterine tissue each month as part of the menstrual cycle. Like other stem cells, however, they can divide to form other kinds of cells.

The Yale team's findings suggest that endometrial stem cells could be used to develop insulin-producing islet cells, which are found in the pancreas. These could then be used to advance the study of islet cell transplantation to treat people with diabetes.

Led by Yale Professor Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., the researchers bathed endometrial stem cells in cultures containing special nutrients and growth factors. Responding to these substances, the endometrial stem cells adopted the characteristics of in the pancreas that produce insulin. Over the course of a three-week incubation process, the endometrial stem cells took on the shape of beta cells and began to make proteins typically made by beta cells. Some of these cells also produced insulin.

After a meal, the body breaks food down into components like the , which then circulates in the blood. In response, beta cells release insulin, which allows the body's cells to take in the circulating glucose. In this study, Taylor and his team exposed the mature stem cells to glucose and found that, like typical beta cells, the responded by producing insulin. The team then injected with the mature, insulin-making stem cells. The mice had few working beta cells and very high levels of blood glucose.

Mice that did not receive the stem cell therapy continued having high , developed cataracts and were lethargic. In contrast, mice that received the cell therapy were active and did not develop cataracts, but the animals' blood sugar levels remained higher than normal.

Taylor said that the next step in the research will be to verify how long this treatment remains effective. "We will also investigate how changing the nutrient bath or increasing the dose of injected cells could make this treatment more effective," he said. "Endometrial stem cells might prove most useful for Type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system destroys the body's own insulin-producing cells. As a result, insulin is not available to control blood glucose levels."

Explore further: Uterine stem cells used to treat diabetes in mice

More information: Citation: Molecular Therapy doi:10.1038/mt.2011.173

Related Stories

Uterine stem cells used to treat diabetes in mice

August 31, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have converted stem cells from the human endometrium into insulin-producing cells and transplanted them into mice to control the animals’ diabetes.

Recommended for you

Researchers grow retinal nerve cells in the lab

November 30, 2015

Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a method to efficiently turn human stem cells into retinal ganglion cells, the type of nerve cells located within the retina that transmit visual signals from the eye to the brain. ...

Shining light on microbial growth and death inside our guts

November 30, 2015

For the first time, scientists can accurately measure population growth rates of the microbes that live inside mammalian gastrointestinal tracts, according to a new method reported in Nature Communications by a team at the ...

Functional human liver cells grown in the lab

November 26, 2015

In new research appearing in the prestigious journal Nature Biotechnology, an international research team led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem describes a new technique for growing human hepatocytes in the laboratory. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.