Study sheds light on bone marrow stem cell therapy for pancreatic recovery

October 2, 2012

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai's Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute have found that a blood vessel-building gene boosts the ability of human bone marrow stem cells to sustain pancreatic recovery in a laboratory mouse model of insulin-dependent diabetes.

The findings, published in a article of the Public Library of Science, offer new insights on mechanisms involved in regeneration of insulin-producing cells and provide new evidence that a diabetic's own bone marrow one day may be a source of treatment.

Scientists began studying bone marrow-derived for pancreatic regeneration a decade ago. Recent studies involving several pancreas-related genes and delivery methods – transplantation into the organ or injection into the blood – have shown that bone marrow could reverse or improve diabetes in some . But little has been known about how stem cells affect that produce insulin – or how scientists could promote sustained beta cell renewal and .

When the Cedars-Sinai researchers modified bone marrow stem cells to express a certain gene (vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF), pancreatic recovery was sustained as mouse pancreases were able to generate new beta cells. The VEGF-modified stem cells promoted growth of needed blood vessels and supported activation of genes involved in insulin production. Bone marrow stem cells modified with a different gene, PDX1, which is important in the development and maintenance of beta cells, resulted in temporary but not sustained beta cell recovery.

"Our study is the first to show that VEGF contributes to revascularization and recovery after pancreatic injury. It demonstrates the possible clinical benefits of using bone marrow-derived stem cells, modified to express that gene, for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes," said John S. Yu, MD, professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, senior author of the journal article.

Diabetes was reversed in five of nine mice treated with the injection of VEGF-modified cells, and near-normal blood sugar levels were maintained through the remainder of the six-week study period. The other four mice survived and gained weight, suggesting treatment was beneficial even when it did not prompt complete reversal. Lab studies later confirmed that genetically-modified cells survived and grew in the pancreas and supported the repopulation of blood vessels and beta cells.

Anna Milanesi, MD, PhD, working in Yu's lab as an endocrinology fellow, is the article's first author. The researchers cautioned that although this and other related studies help scientists gain a better understanding of the processes and pathways involved in pancreatic regeneration, more research is needed before human clinical trials can begin.

Insulin-dependent diabetes occurs when beta cells of the pancreas fail to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates sugar in the blood. Patients must take insulin injections or consider transplantation of a whole pancreas or parts of the pancreas that make insulin, but transplantation carries the risk of cell rejection.

Explore further: Stem cells cultured from human bone marrow behave like those derived from brain tissue

More information: PLOS ONE paper is titled "Beta-cell Regeneration Mediated by Human Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells."

Related Stories

The new source of islet cells

October 25, 2007

The shortage of islet cells limits the development of islet transplantation. One new approach was reported in the October 21 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology because of its great significance in enhancing the ...

Scientists use uterine stem cells to treat diabetes

September 14, 2011

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 ...

Neural stem cell transplant may tackle diabetes

October 7, 2011

Researchers in Japan have discovered how a patient's neural stem cells could be used as an alternative source of the beta cells needed for a regenerative treatment for diabetes. The research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine ...

Recommended for you

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

0 comments

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.