Potential diabetes cure with human cloning

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Scientists have made use of human cloning to create stem cells which could offer a cure for diabetes by insulin production triggering.

Scientists have, for the first time, had success with replacing the damaged DNA of a sufferer of type 1 diabetes with the healthy genetic material taken from an infant donor. Hope is being placed on injecting these cells back into the diabetic patient to trigger the production of insulin naturally.

The same cloning technique which produced Dolly, the sheep, in 1996, will be used. This procedure will eliminate the need for daily insulin injections which, in effect, will cure the disease.

The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) scientist in charge of the research, Dr Dieter Egli, stated that they are one step closer to treating diabetic patients, with their own insulin-producing cells. The goal of the research was to produce patient-specific cells from an adult human with type 1 diabetes which will initiate the production of cells that are usually lost in the disease.

Patients who suffer from type 1 diabetes do not have beta cells that produce insulin. This results in a deficiency of insulin and high blood-sugar levels.

Since the patient’s own skin cells are used to make the stem cells, the engineered cells used during replacement therapy would match the DNA of the patient, hence it will not be rejected.
Researchers are hoping that this form of stem cell therapy may be used for a range of conditions in future, including macular degeneration, liver diseases, replacement or repair of damaged bones, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

The CEO and Co-Founder of NYSCF, Susan Solomon, whose son is a type-1 diabetic, has stated that they are thrilled at the accomplishment of their goal to create patient-specific stem cells by the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer. She said that the results of the research have given her hope that one day there will be a cure for the disease.

The technique used involves the removal of the nucleus of an early stage egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a healthy infant skin cell. Delivering an electric shock to the cells causes division until a few hundred cells are formed, ready for harvesting.

A team based at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center reported the creation of the first embryonic cell line made from human skin, during 2011. They were able to make stem cells and beta cells that were insulin-producing from type-1 diabetes patients. However, these cells had three sets of chromosomes and were unable to be used for new therapies.

Earlier during this month, another team issued reports that they had made use of human cloning to create stem cells that could result in organs and tissue being re-grown.

Dr Solomon has stated that the research was done strictly for therapeutic purposes. He said that this technique would not be used for human cloning under any circumstances, as it would not be possible.

Image Credit: Jill Brown

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