Exploring Diabetes—With Mice

My latest gym reading is Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Usually two or three of his humorous essays are perfect for my time on the exercise bicycle. It beats watching the talking heads that are usually on the gym’s TV screens when I’m up there.

Now an announcement from San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes says its researchers have been exploring diabetes with mice.

Coincidence? Of course.

Yet my gym reading did make me sit up and take notice of the new study. It turns out that Ke Li, Sheng Ding, and other biochemists have come up with a way to reprogram skin cells into cells that can make insulin-producing pancreas cells. The body’s inability to make insulin causes Type 1 diabetes. Up to 3 million Americans have the disease, reports JDRF.

The cell reprogramming process worked in a petri dish. The cells also worked when they were transplanted into mice with hyperglycemia. That condition’s high glucose levels are a key indicator for diabetes. Within a week, the test mice’s glucose began approaching normal levels.

The findings might eventually translate into treatment for people with diabetes. They can also help scientists understand better how defects in certain cells lead to the disease.

The research is published in Cell Stem Cell. Cell—Stem Cell would probably be a better way to write the title, but that’s not how they do it.

Meanwhile, it’s good that the mice responded well to the process. I just hope no one feeds them to owls.

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