The cells are currently being trialled in animals and non-human primates with hopes human trials could take place in the near future..
The researchers built a three-dimensional cell culture system using 500 ml spinner flasks containing undifferentiated human pluripotent stem cells. The flasks were placed on a magnetic stirrer and the cells were fed special proteins over a 33-day period. After further treatment and imaging, the insulin-secreting stem-cell-derived-β cells were transplanted into diabetic mice, which had a higher survival rate and lower blood glucose level than the control group under three different scenarios.
The cells produced were found to mimic the function of human islets (clusters of cells scattered throughout the pancreas), which are crucial in regulating blood sugar. Type 1 diabetics lack the beta cells that monitor blood sugar levels and release insulin to normalize it because their immune system attacks and destroys these cells. Transplanted beta cells grown in a lab may provide a long-term solution, but until now they could not be grown in sufficient quantities to treat the disease.