Scientists using lab-grown cells have for the first time cured mice of diabetes, and they say they believe their pioneering process ultimately will rid humans of the currently incurable disease.
Beyond that, the breakthrough adds to the mounting evidence supporting the theory that stem-cell research - which the scientists were engaged in - will in time yield new and remarkable treatments for many pernicious diseases.
"This is a very important and exciting development," says Larry Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California at San Diego.
"And," he quickly adds, "the fact the researchers are pushing forward to find human applications is wonderful. But it could take some time. We don't want to whip up hysteria among the many people afflicted by this terrible disease."
Stem cells are incredibly small, "primitive" cells that can divide endlessly and can develop into the special cells that build various bodily organs - in this case into organisms of the pancreas.
University of Florida immunologist Ammon B. Peck and his research team successfully harvested stem cells from the pancreas of a donor, nurtured them until they developed into a type of pancreatic cell that is capable of producing insulin and injected the insulin-producing cells into diabetic mice.
Five days later, the mice no longer needed their normal treatments, and "within a week or 10 days all the mice" in the experiment were cured of their diabetes.
Dr. Desmond Schatz, a pediatrician on the team, confirmed this was the first time stem cells have been involved in the treatment of diabetes. It's one of the first times stem cells have been used …