Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard-affiliated hospital, have been studying mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and have reportedly uncovered a way to enhance and prolong the cells’ therapeutic efforts in type 1 diabetes. While studying a preclinical trial of diabetic-prone mice, Harvard Medical School Professor Robert Sackstein and a team of researchers found that the intravenous administration of MSCs stifled pancreatic injuries by reducing the levels of sugar in the bloodstream of those mice without the need of insulin administration. Due to this finding, Sackstein and his team hypothesized that if more MSCs could be forced to populate inside the pancreatic islets, there is a higher chance of a complete reversal of diabetes. MSCs usually lack a key cell surface adhesion molecule called HCELL, which prevents MSCs from being directly inserted into pancreatic islets due to how fragile the pancreas is. However, when the researchers engineered an HCELL molecule to steer the MSCs toward the inflamed pancreas, the team found that these HCELL- bearing MSCs caused the cells to lodge into the pancreatic islets. This lodging resulted in the normalization of blood sugar levels, which in turn eliminated the need for insulin administration. Sackstein believes that this study is an important step in the use of mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of type 1 diabetes and other immune–related issues.
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