Health care professionals are regularly looking for new ways to help treat and prevent diabetes. As of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 25.8 million people in the U.S. had the disease – whether diagnosed or not.1 That's equal to 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, making it clear that advancements surrounding diabetes would be well received.
Some of the latest research regarding diabetes comes out of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, in conjunction with the University of Copenhagen and the Institute of Bioengineering. These professionals were successful in establishing a 3-D culture condition that effectively grows embryonic pancreatic progenitors.2 Now, the question remains: How can this help fight diabetes?
Basically, this process is capable of growing miniature a pancreas through the use of progenitor cells. Future attempts may result in production of a human pancreas, which would be useful in testing out different diabetes drugs. This isn't the first time that researchers have tried to grow a pancreas, although it has been the most successful attempt.
"This new method allows the cell material to take a three-dimensional shape enabling them to multiply more freely," Anne Grapin-Botton, one of the researchers, said in a statement. "It's like a plant where you can effective fertilizer, think of the laboratory like a garden and the scientist being the gardener."3
According to Science World Report, there must be at least four pancreatic cells in close proximity to each other in order for the growth to take place.4 When conditions were right, the cells would transform into ones that were able to function as either digestive enzymes or hormones that are similar to insulin. From here, the different organisms organized on their own into a pancreas-like organoid. As research continues, these findings may prove to be life changing for a number of Americans. The first step is for scientist to practice similar attempts on human stem cells.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "2011 national diabetes fact sheet" May 23, 2011
2 Developments, "Artificial three-dimensional niches deconstruct pancreas development in vitro"
3 University of Copenhagen, "New 3D method used to grow miniature pancreas" October 15, 2013
4 Science World Report, "New 3D method can grow miniature pancreas: help for diabetes" October 16, 2013