Human Stomach Stem Cells Converted to Insulin-Secreting Cells That Reverse Diabetes in Mouse Model; Proof-of-Concept Study Gives Foundation for Developing Potential Treatment

Human gastric insulin-secreting organoids molecularly and functionally resemble pancreatic islets. Red: c-peptide, a byproduct of pro-insulin. Green: glucagon (typically produced by alpha cells of the pancreas) and somatostatin and ghrelin (typically produced by stomach cells). Blue: DAPI, labeling cell nuclei. Image courtesy of Xiaofeng Huang.
Stem cells from the human stomach can be converted into cells that secrete insulin in response to rising blood sugar levels, offering a promising approach to treating diabetes, according to results from a preclinical study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and collaborators. In the study, which appeared April 27, 2023 in Nature Cell Biology, the researchers showed that they could take stem cells obtained from human stomach tissue and reprogram them directly—with strikingly high efficiency—into cells that closely resemble pancreatic insulin-secreting cells known as beta cells. Transplants of small groups of these cells reversed disease signs in a mouse model of diabetes. “This is a proof-of-concept study that gives us a solid foundation for developing a treatment, based on patients’ own cells, for type 1 diabetes and severe type 2 diabetes,” said study senior author Joe Zhou, PhD, a Professor of Regenerative Medicine and a member of the Hartman Institute for Therapeutic Organ Regeneration at Weill Cornell Medicine. The Nature Cell Biology article is titled “Stomach-Derived Human Insulin-Secreting Organoids Restore Glucose Homeostasis.”
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