Stanford scientists (Yuichi Hori1, Xueying Gu, Xiaodong Xie, Seung K. Kim) were able to transform “brain-derived human neural progenitor cells” (read stem cells from brain) to glucose responsive insulin producing cells after subjecting them to signals that regulate islet development. In simple words there were able to transform stem cells from brain to insulin producing cells which were responsive to glucose levels.

Recently after Edmonton protocol there is a promise of cure for diabetes (type 1) through islet transplantation. The key challenge is lack of supply of sufficient islet cells (pancreatic islet of langerhans).

The transplantation of insulin-secreting cells has proved effective in treating severe cases of type 1 diabetes, but currently such cells have to be collected from donors after death. The process of isolation is very laborious and does not provide sufficient numbers of cells to permit wider use of this transplant-based treatment. A renewable source of these cells would be very valuable. Previous work has shown that some nerve cells can also produce insulin.

What Do the Results Mean for Patients?
These findings are a first step towards producing a renewable source of insulin-producing cells; however, the amount of insulin produced was quite low. In addition much more work will need to be done to ensure the safety of the procedure over the long term.

Where Can I Get More Information?
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has an information page on islet cell transplantation [] .

Source: Differentiation of Insulin-Producing Cells from Human Neural Progenitor Cells []