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Gut Cells May Be Coaxed to Make Insulin for People With Type 1 Diabetes

Early study in mouse and human cells shows promise, but more research is needed

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The Columbia team's latest findings found this technique also hold promise for the treatment of type 1 diabetes in human cells.

In conducting the study, published online June 30 in Nature Communications, the researchers re-created a tissue model of the human intestine using stem cells. They then retrained the gut cells to make insulin by turning off a particular gene, known as the FOXO1 gene.

According to Accili's team, the genetically engineered cells began emitting insulin in about a week. The study's authors also pointed out that the cells only released the insulin in response to sugar.

"By showing that human cells can respond in the same way as mouse cells, we have cleared a main hurdle and can now move forward to try to make this treatment a reality," Accili said.

For his part LeRoith called the study "exciting."

"This study and others like it may form the basis of future development of insulin producing cells that could be used in 'curing' type 1 diabetes," he said.

The research is very early, and laboratory studies don't always translate into success in humans. However, the researchers remain hopeful. Accili said that the next step in developing a new type 1 diabetes treatment involves to find a drug that can block the FOXO1 gene in the human gut.

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