Scientists at University of Edinburgh have developed embryonic stem cells to the stage at which they can both replicate themselves and become cells associated with the gut such as pancreas and liver.
Previously, pancreatic and liver and cells that scientists produced from stem cells, ran the risk of forming tumours on transplantation as they could still continue to divide and specialise into unwanted cells.
The latest development has the potential for cells to be used for treating conditions such as diabetes with more research and refinement. The developed cells could also provide a ready source of pancreatic and liver cells without the need for further use of embryonic stem cells. However, more research is needed before this can be confirmed.
A vital step forward
“Stem cell research is very much in its infancy but with more research it could one day offer a real possibility of leading to a cure for diabetes," Dr Victoria King, Research Manager at Diabetes UK.
"Diabetes UK would not wish to raise people's expectations that this research is a massive leap in diabetes stem cell research, but it is exciting and does provide another step forward in our knowledge.”
The findings of the study, funded by the BBSRC, Scottish Funding Council and JDRF, carried out in collaboration with the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Oxford, are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.