Jul
12
2009

Liver induced to produce insulin


Liver and pancreasCourtesy Jiju Kurian Punnoose

Liver cells could be reprogrammed as insulin factories

In the embryo, the pancreas and liver tissue develop from the same family of cells. Crucial for the creation of the pancreas in the embryo, is the Pdx-1 gene.

By infecting adult human liver cells with a harmless virus engineered to carry Pdx-1, the liver cells began produced Pdx-1 protein.

Sarah Ferber and her colleagues at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel, showed that the gene deactivates a range of genes relevant to the cell's function in the liver, as well as activating unexpressed genes vital for beta cell function (beta cells produce insulin).

The ultimate plan is to take liver cells from people with diabetes, reprogram the cells and reinject them. Because they are the patient's own, the cells should escape rejection by the immune system, sparing the individual a lifetime of daily insulin injections. "Potentially, patients can be donors of their own therapeutic tissue," says Ferber. New Scientist

Ferber is presenting the work on July 9 at an International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

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