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    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Stem Cells and Diabetes: One of the more vocal advocacy groups on behalf of embryonic stem cell research has been Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They've been very effective advocates. (It was they who introduced Nancy Reagan to the issue.) Who could be so heartless as to deny young children a cure? Today's New England Journal of Medicine has a review of recent pancreatic rejuvination research that suggests pancreatic cells replenish themselves without the help of stem cells:

    Their first experiment confirmed the widely held view that normal turnover of beta cells occurs through the replication of preexisting beta cells. The second and much more intriguing result was that after partial pancreatectomy, newly formed beta cells also arose from preexisting beta cells. Does this mean that there is no such thing as a pancreatic endocrine stem cell? The answer is 'probably,'

    But the authors can't resist putting in a plug for embryonic stem cell research, and a slam against adult stem cell research:

    The new study places increased emphasis on promoting the replication of adult beta cells4 and the differentiation of beta cells from embryonic stem cells at the expense of pursuing research into the use of adult stem cells for beta-cell replacement.

    But didn't the authors just say that it's the beta cells (the cells that produce insulin) that create new beta cells? Wouldn't it make more sense to find ways to coax the existing beta cells in diabetics to produce more of themselves, rather than try to start all over with foreign embryonic cells?

    And this story from the BBC says that Canadian researchers have isolated those immature adult pancreatic cells (in mice). Amazingly, they can also be coaxed into becoming nerve cells. Their findings seem solid.

    Looks like the money should definitely go toward adult pancreatic cell work. That won't be good news for the equity in PanCell, Inc. held by one of the authors of the New England Journal of Medicine article, though. It's probably not good news for their department's research funding, either.

    posted by Sydney on 9/02/2004 09:40:00 AM 0 comments


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