Islets of youth
Turning the clock back on diabetes
In the not-too-distant future, a child with type 1 diabetes will prick her finger, not to find out if she needs insulin, but to help scientists cure her disease.
Cells from her blood, a scrape of her skin, or another tissue will be “re-programmed” in the laboratory to create insulin-producing beta cells. They’ll be injected back into her body in an attempt to repair her damaged pancreas.
“I think we’ll be putting pancreatic beta cells that have been made in a dish into people within 10 years,” says Mark Magnuson, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Stem Cell Biology.
Sounds like science fiction?
Magnuson and others might have agreed – until last year, when several provocative reports were published.
By inserting various combinations of genes, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reported that they had “induced” human skin cells to revert to an embryonic-like state of “pluripotency” – capable of turning into any other kind of cell.