Findings may lead to improved insulin-secreting cells derived from stem cells

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Researchers ID shortcomings in stem cell-derived beta cells, paving way to improved diabetes treatments

Diabetes researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have uncovered at least one reason insulin-secreting cells made from stem cells in the lab don’t work as well as natural cells. The discovery could help speed progress toward making insulin-secreting cells — called islet beta cells — more effective in the treatment of insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes.

Since scientists first discovered they could sample skin cells or fat cells from people, convert those cells into stem cells and then guide the stem cells to develop into insulin-secreting beta cells, researchers have been attempting to hone the process. The researchers say the new findings, published May 15 in the journal Nature Cell Biology, may help pave the way for producing more efficient and effective beta cells to treat people with insulin-dependent diabetes.