Scientists have made insulin-producing cells from sperm stem cells, a technique that could one day be used to treat people with type 1 diabetes.

G. Ian Gallicano, an associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC, transformed the early precursors for human sperm, called spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), into beta-islet cells, which produce insulin. His team extracted human SSCs from the testicles of dead organ donors. “We found that once you take these cells out of the testes niche, they get confused, and will form all three germ layers within several weeks.

These are true, pluripotent stem cells,” said Gallicano. The researchers showed that the stem cells contained biological markers indicating they were similar to beta-islet cells.

When these were transplanted into diabetic mice (which were engineered to have no immune system), the rodents' blood sugar levels dropped for a week, showing that the transplanted cells were producing insulin over this period. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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