MEN with insulin-dependent diabetes might one day have their condition treated with cells from their testicles, US scientists have claimed.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), in Washington, DC, said hey transformed sperm stem cells into the pancreatic cells that make insulin, without using any extra genes to turn adult stem cells into a tissue of choice.
Tests on mice showed that the early precursors for human sperm, called human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), once extracted from testicular tissue could be morphed into insulin-secreting beta islet cells normally found in the pancreas, to start reversing the disease.
Using human testes from dead organ donors, the research team produced around one million stem cells from one gram of tissue.
They found that the cells showed many of the biological markers that characterise normal beta islet cells.
They then transplanted those cells into immune deficient diabetic mice and were able to decrease the rodents’ blood sugar levels for about a week – showing that the cells were producing enough insulin to reduce hyperglycemia.
“No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr G. Ian Gallicano, an associate professor at the university.
If this technique could be replicated in humans, using a man’s own tissue to create insulin, it would conquer problems with many of the potential treatments currently being tested for type 1 diabetes.
Dr Gallicano, who presented his team’s work in Philadelphia at the American Society of Cell Biology annual meeting, said they hoped a similar technique could be developed to help women.