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: Scientists use uterine stem cells to treat diabetes

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

Related Stories

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 ...

Connexins: Providing protection to cells destroyed in Type 1 diabetes

November 7, 2011
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It is caused by the patient's immune system attacking and destroying the cells in their pancreas that produce the hormone ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find RNA with special role in nerve healing process

August 22, 2017
Scientists may have identified a new opening to intervene in the process of healing peripheral nerve damage with the discovery that an "anti-sense" RNA (AS-RNA) is expressed when nerves are injured. Their experiments in mice ...

Mouse model of human immune system inadequate for stem cell studies

August 22, 2017
A type of mouse widely used to assess how the human immune system responds to transplanted stem cells does not reflect what is likely to occur in patients, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School ...

Researchers offer new targets for drugs against fatty liver disease and liver cancer

August 22, 2017
There may no silver bullet for treating liver cancer or fatty liver disease, but knowing the right targets will help scientists develop the most effective treatments. Researchers in Sweden have just identified a number of ...

Make way for hemoglobin

August 18, 2017
Every cell in the body, whether skin or muscle or brain, starts out as a generic cell that acquires its unique characteristics after undergoing a process of specialization. Nowhere is this process more dramatic than it is ...

Bio-inspired materials give boost to regenerative medicine

August 18, 2017
What if one day, we could teach our bodies to self-heal like a lizard's tail, and make severe injury or disease no more threatening than a paper cut?

Are stem cells the link between bacteria and cancer?

August 17, 2017
Gastric carcinoma is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths, primarily because most patients present at an advanced stage of the disease. The main cause of this cancer is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, ...

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.