Thanks to discoveries of PDRC researcher Anthony Montgomery and colleagues, we may soon be able to drastically increase the supply of transplantable beta-cells for patients whose bodies no longer create enough insulin on their own. Recently, Dr. Montgomery published findings from his laboratory and in collaboration with PDRC interim co-director Alberto Hayek that resolve some of the problems associated with preserving the function of beta-cells that are grown in the laboratory. Typically, when grown outside the body, beta-cells convert or transition into another cell type that fails to produce insulin. Dr. Montgomery and his colleagues have identified a number of small compounds or drugs that can be used to prevent this detrimental process in order to preserve, or even increase, insulin production after culture in the laboratory.
The next step is to determine whether these drugs can be used to significantly increase the number of functional beta cells available for transplantation. Interestingly, one of the same drugs used in these experiments also significantly enhances the generation of insulin-producing beta-cells from embryonic stem cells. These studies should bring us one step closer to a universal cell-based therapy for patients with type I diabetes.
To learn more about Dr. Montgomery and his work, please visit pdrc.ucsd.edu/faculty.
The text of Dr. Montgomery's paper is available online in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.