Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York are hopeful that cells inside the human gut might someday be retrained to produce insulin for people with type 1 diabetes.
In people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s natural insulin-producing cells are destroyed by their immune system. For the past 20 years, scientists have been trying to help the body make new insulin-producing cells that replace those that are lost to the disease.
Members of the scientific team at Columbia were able to turn off a particular gene (known as FOXO1) and convert gut cells to cells that make insulin. These genetically engineered cells began emitting insulin in about a week.
This study and others like it may form the basis of future development of insulin producing cells that could be used to cure type 1 diabetes. However, the research is very early and successful laboratory studies do not always translate to success in humans. The next step is to find a drug that can block the FOXO1 gene in the human gut.