Dental Stem Cells Produce Insulin: A Breakthrough in Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
A group of scientists from the University of Malaya and Stempeutics Research Malaysia have succeeded in isolating stem cells from baby teeth that were extracted to avoid overcrowding of teeth as a part of normal dental care.
These stem cells were then cultured in the laboratory under specific conditions that helped them turn into Islet-like Cell Aggregates (ICAs), similar to insulin producing cells in pancreas, i.e., Islets of Langerhans.
Moreover, they were altered in such a way that they started producing insulin in a glucose-dependent manner, which means, insulin production would increase proportionately as and when the glucose levels rise.
These findings give a new hope to type 1 diabetes patients, who are compelled to take insulin injections daily in order to compensate for the low insulin production in their bodies.
Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes is a chronic (life long) disease that predominantly affects children and teenagers. In this disease, insulin production in the patient’s body is not sufficient enough to move glucose (blood sugar) from blood into cells, where it is stored and used for energy production.
According to an estimate, in the USA alone, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year.
The first set of dental stem cells was isolated from dental pulp in 2000, by a group of researchers from National Institute of Health. In 2009, insulin production from periodontal ligament was shown possible.
The current research is a significant step that allows the production of insulin from the dental stem cells that are modified to Islet-like Cell Aggregates (ICAs). Researchers are looking forward to transplant these cells into the patient’s pancreas to ensure the optimal secretion of insulin.
In the near future, this transplantation procedure can be made accessible to type 1 diabetes patients, as this does not involve ethical issues unlike embryonic stem cells, dental stem cells can be easily extracted as each person in his/her lifetime tends to lose 20 teeth and there is no fear of transplant rejection.