I’ve read the unproofed draft (their English is much better than my Korean) of “Induction of human umbilical cord blood-derived stem cells with embryonic stem cell phenotypes into insulin producing islet-like structure” by B. Sun, et. al. (Biochem. Biophys.Res. Commun. (2007), doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2007.01.069)
The authors do not tell us how much of the insulin-secreting cells or colonies of cells they were able to obtain. However, they do report that at one stage, the cells exhibit Oct-4 and “stage-specific antigen 4″(which are characteristic of embryonic stem cells). After inducing umbilical cord cells to revert to these embryonic-like stem cells, they then followed a previously reported protocol for inducing embryonic stem cells into beta islet cells. Colonies of cells grew in islet-like structures and were positive for both insulin and C-peptide. The C-petide is indication that the insulin came from the cells, and not from an artificial source in the nutrients in which the cells were grown.
Time will tell whether the photos are real, whether the results can be replicated in other labs, whether there are enough babies born and cord blood to be obtained to match all the diabetic patients in the world, whether it’s possible to transplant immune-matched islet cell structures into humans, and whether those islet cells will survive and function in the recipients. I wonder whether the manipulated cells will be genetically stable or whether they will be prone to die or mutate.
On the other hand, if as in hematopoietic stem cell umbilical cord blood transplants, the cells do not have to be as closely matched in order to be accepted by the immune system, and if these cells persist as long as maternal stem cells have been reported to do, then this report brings us the most promising news of a possible treatment if not cure for diabetes that I’ve seen in all these years of stem cell reports.