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13-12-2010 | Diabetes | Article

Testicular tissue holds promise for generation of insulin-producing cells


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MedWire News: Researchers have successfully generated insulin-secreting pancreatic cells from stem cells extracted from human testicular tissue.

"No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," said study investigator, Ian Gallicano from Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.

The results were presented by Anirudh Saraswathula, also from Georgetown University Medical Center, at the American Society of Cell Biology 50th annual meeting in Philadelphia, USA.

The team believes that, given further progress, their technique could lead to a possible treatment for men with Type 1 diabetes. A major advantage of such a treatment would be its autograft nature, in that the cells would be recognized as "self" and would not be rejected.

The work is currently in an early phase and in this study the investigators engineered insulin-secreting cells, displaying characteristics very similar to normal pancreatic β-cells, from human SSCs and transplanted them into immune-deficient, diabetic mice. The glucose levels of the mice decreased significantly over about a week as a result of the transplanted cells, which the researchers say demonstrates the "ability of these cells to eventually help treat hyperglycemia."

They add: "Equally important, while these cells come from the human testis, the work here is not necessarily male-centric. The work is centered around understanding β-islet cell differentiation and grafting efficacy.

"These fundamental aspects could easily be applied to the female counterpart, oocytes."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Helen Albert