Stem Cells from a Diabetes Patient Could Lead to New Treatments

In January 2013, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University reported that they had successfully created embryonic stem cells from a human embryo formed when the nucleus of one person’s cell was transferred into another person’s egg that had its original nucleus removed (see “Human Embryonic Stem Cells Cloned”).
This, as well as a series of breakthroughs in cloning technology over the last year and a half are stoking hopes that cells could be used as treatments for patients with chronic, debilitating diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s.
That was the first time stem cells had been made from such a cloned embryo, and the advance provides a potential route by which scientists could create various kinds of replacement cells based on a patient’s own genome. Many other research teams are pursuing another method of creating stem cells from a patient’s own cells, but some believe cells made with the cloning technique could be more likely to develop into a wide variety of cell types.
In the most recent advance for the cloning-based approach, a new report describes stem cells produced by cloning a skin cell from a woman with type 1 diabetes. The researchers were then able to turn those stem cells into insulin-producing cells resembling the beta cells that are lost in that disease. The immune system attacks these pancreatic cells, leaving patients unable to properly regulate their blood sugar levels.