A CRISPR fix for diabetes? Success using stem cells in mice offers promise for humans

diabetes insulin syringes t
Credit: Dolgachov

[Researchers] recently used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to correct stem cells from diabetic patients and turn them into fully functioning beta cells. After transferring the edited cells into mice with diabetes, the animals’ blood sugar normalized. The results were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on April 22.

Though the work was done using cells from patients with a rare form of the disease, the authors think the approach could eventually be used to treat Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

“We were able to reverse the diabetes in the mice in about a week,” Jeffrey Millman, an assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering, tells OneZero.

Related article:  Researcher backtracks on study suggesting He Jiankui’s controversial CRISPR babies will have shorter lifespans

If the treatment works, it could be a long-term fix for diabetes, and because the approach uses a patient’s own cells, it would eliminate the need for transplant recipients to take immunosuppressant drugs. It could also stave off the potentially serious health complications that arise from diabetes, like nerve and kidney damage, obesity, heart attack, and stroke. But because the process of generating cells would need to be tailored to individual patients — a very time-consuming effort — it would be difficult to make these cells for every person with diabetes.

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