Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found a naturally occurring hormone that causes adult stem cells to mature into pancreatic beta cells. Dr Joel Habener, who led the study, found the hormone called glucagonlike peptide-1 (GLP-1) which helps transform the stem cells into beta cells. Dr. Habener stated, With the addition of GLP-1, we might be able to stimulate those cells to become fully functional."
In theory, a patient’s own stem cells could be used to make beta cells, which would then be transplanted back into the patient. Because the cells come from the patient there should be no problems with the body rejecting them. Beta cells work by producing insulin, thus eliminating the need for daily injections; effectively curing the disease.
Dr Moira Murphy, director of research for Diabetes UK, said the study was "potentially exciting", but stated that more research was needed. "There is a clear aim to find a way of generating adequate supplies of insulin-producing cells. "However, this research is in its infancy and there is a lot of developmental work to be done before this could be used in practice."