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Sperm-producing stem cells may help cure diabetes

by nickj on December 13, 2010

Scientists succeeded in manipulating sperm-producing stem cells to generate insulin, temporarily providing a one-week cure for mice with type 1 diabetes.

Senior researcher Ian Gallicano and his team manipulated spermatogonial stem cells with compounds that made the cells act like pancreatic beta cells, which then produced enough insulin in the diabetic mice to lower their glucose levels for one week.

"The goal is to coax these cells into making enough insulin to cure diabetes. These cells don't secrete enough insulin to cure diabetes in humans yet," Gallicano told HealthDay News. He also cautioned that there's a small chance that the transplant may result in teratoma tumors.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the immune system malfunctions and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading those who suffer from the disease to rely on insulin injections.

According to the news source, pancreatic transplants have worked in the past, though only with the help of immune-suppressing medications, since the body often attempts to destroy the foreign tissues. With the recent development, transplanting a person's own stem cells back into his or her body may solve this issue.

"We know [spermatogonial stem cells] have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," Gallicano said on Sunday during the 50th annual meeting of American Society for Cell Biology.

Gallicano said that females may also benefit from the research, since the technique could be applied to oocytes, or egg cells, as well, reports ABCNews.com.

According to MedicalNewsToday.com, 8 percent of Americans are afflicted with diabetes, making it one of the nation's leading health concerns.

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