Researchers at the Harvard University’s Stem Cell Institute have engineered stem cells to become insulin producing cells, potentially providing an important source of pancreatic cells for the development of more effective treatment alternatives for millions of diabetics around the world. The technique increased insulin-producing cell yield from 30% to 80% by targeting the production of a specific protein utilized by insulin-producing beta cells. This enabled the researchers to concentrate the stem cells and yield more beta cells that can then be transplanted into diabetic individuals. Additionally, the concentration of cells should allow researchers to use smaller and less invasive devices to deliver the therapeutic cells in clinically relevant numbers.
Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed a skin graft utilizing engineered stem cells that can trigger the release of insulin and successfully regulate blood sugar levels, as well as prevent weight gain when consuming a high-fat diet. This revolutionary treatment could eliminate the pain and discomfort from current methods of monitoring and regulating blood sugar through injections. The stem cells in the graft were engineered, with the use of CRISPR, to release a hormone that mimics glucagon (called GLP-1) and trigger the pancreas to release insulin. GLP-1 is also shown to combat obesity due to its appetite suppressing properties. The engineered stem cells formed into a layer of skin tissue and were applied to the subjects. In animal models, 80% of the diabetic mice receiving the engineered skin graft exhibited the release of insulin following food consumption resulting in lower blood glucose levels and reduced body weight.