|June 11, 2000
Contact: Bernadette King, Lisa
NEWSROOM June 9-13, 2000:
703-549-1500, ext 1318
UCSD Contact: Leslie
GROW INSULIN-SECRETING CELLS TO TREAT DIABETES
School of Medicine scientists have successfully cultured human
beta cells that grow indefinitely, and that could potentially
serve as an unlimited source of insulin-producing tissue for
transplantation to cure people with diabetes, according to reports
presented Sunday, June 11 at the American Diabetes Associationís
60th Annual Scientific Sessions in San Antonio.
Beta cells are found
exclusively in the pancreas, secreting insulin in response to glucose
stimulation. When these cells are defective or when the body fails to
utilize insulin properly, the result is diabetes, characterized by
high blood sugar levels. More than 16 million Americans have diabetes,
the sixth leading cause of death by disease in the United States.
One approach to treating
diabetes is transplantation of either the pancreas or of islet cells
which contain beta cells, giving the patient a new source of insulin.
Recent advances in these techniques indicate that this is a successful
approach, but limited due to the scarcity of donor tissue from
if you had unlimited success with tissue transplantation, there
is simply not enough donor tissue to treat the millions of people
who have diabetes," said Fred Levine, M.D., Ph.D., associate
professor at the UCSD Cancer Center and the Whittier Institute
in San Diego, whose laboratory reported the successful results.
"We have now been able to create an immortal human cell
line, and have demonstrated in mice that these cells are functional
when transplanted, secreting insulin in response to glucose
These results are the
culmination of eight years of work by Levine and his colleagues to
create the correct genetic cocktail, giving the beta cells the ability
to endlessly reproduce, while counteracting the malignant behavior in
order to prevent tumor formation.
There is further work to be
done, stresses Levine, including more studies to ensure that these
cells can be produced in enough quantity to be effective in a larger
animal. If all goes well, he said, it might be possible to consider
human studies in a few years.
These reports were presented at
the ADA meeting by Dominique Dufayet, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in
Levineís laboratory, who discussed the development of the cell line;
and by Tonya Halverson, an M.D.-Ph.D. candidate at UCSD, who presented
the results of the mouse studies.
This work has been funded by
the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
and the Stern Foundation.