“Mini-Stomach” can end Insulin Shots

“Mini-Stomach” can end Insulin Shots

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Narrator: Having to constantly think about
what you can or cannot eat, remembering to test your blood sugar, living with an increased
risk of having serious health problems, giving yourself insulin shots daily. Dr. Zhou: If you have a high glucose level
for a very long time, years or even decades and if you don’t control it very well, eventually
your pancreatic beta cells, the cell types that make insulin, they will also be damaged
to such a extent that it’s irreparable. Narrator: But what if we could make living
with diabetes easier? What if there was a way we could retrain our bodies so they produce
the insulin we need on their own? Potentially, type 2 diabetes would become more manageable,
maybe even irradiated. We’ll explore this groundbreaking possibility on this edition
of LabTV News: Diabetes. Today, we’re in the lab of Dr. Joe Zhou, principal
investigator of his lab studying stem cell regenerative biology at Harvard University.
He and his team are trying to retrain some of the body’s beta cells so they produce insulin. Dr. Zhou: What we thought is perhaps the most
simplistic way to make beta cells is to harvest some adult tissues from a specific person
for example. The patient itself. And then maybe create a technology where we can expand
them and then convert them basically now, remake the cells into a new beta cell. Narrator: Currently, the pancreas is the only
organ in our bodies that produce beta cells that create insulin. But what if it were possible
to train beta cells in other parts of our body to perform this function? Reprogramming
cells to take on the function of insulin producing beta cells sounds impossible. But Dr. Zhou
and his colleague Dr. Tee asked where in the body might they find cells that could be retrained
into insulin producing cells. Dr. Zhou: We want to look at the eye. We look
at the eye, we look at the kidney. We look at a heart. We look at like everywhere from
the tip to the toe. We had a interesting observation, a surprising
breakthrough if you will. It’s just been published. The surprise is it turns out the cells in
one part of the stomach, the so called antrum, surprisingly this is the best source, starting
material to make a new beta cell. Narrator: The antrum. At the opening of the
stomach, does this location contain the cells that Dr. Zhou needs? One thing about these
stomach cells that they can produce themselves in mass. Dr. Zhou: For example, if you have some bad
gastrointestinal disease you could have diarrhea, you could lose tissues. But it will be replenished
very quickly because of your own stem cells are working to regenerate your gastrointestinal
tract. But that allows us to now capture tiny pieces of tissues and be able to bring that
to the laboratory and grow them and expand them to very large numbers and now we can
reprogram them to new insulin secreting beta cells. Narrator: Someday, this therapy could help
people with diabetes to create insulin naturally inside the body, eliminating the needs for
diabetes patients to inject insulin. Dr. Zhou’s discovery has the potential to improve millions
of lives around the globe and they are just getting started. Dr. Zhou: We have to try it right? We have
never done that. We are currently… Narrator: One day, Dr. Zhou and Dr. Tee began
brainstorming the idea of a mini stomach. Dr. Zhou: Over Christmas, New Year break,
so the lab was very empty, just two of us sitting and brainstorming, we came up with
this crazy idea maybe what we can do is to create a mini stomach whose dedicated function
is to make beta cells. We talk about I said, this is pretty, would
be pretty cool to do right? Dr. Tee: Yeah, if it works. Dr. Zhou: If it works it will be pretty cool. Dr. Tee: Yeah, I actually, initially we didn’t
expect that it’s going to work. Dr. Zhou: It turns out this can be done. You
can create a small, tiny mini stomach. Dr. Tee: Slowly, we get something that, we
get a ball shape and I opened it up. I was very excited to see “oh my God, there’s
something forming” like after it has [fed it], after I sectioned it do this, the histology
and look at like I stared for the insulin and inside that ball, it’s so many insulin
positive cells and I remember that “oh my God, there’s so many insulin positive cells
in the inside the mini stomach.” Narrator: This mini stomach could encourage
insulin production, giving a person with diabetes a sustainable regenerative insulin boost.
Their hope is to as soon as possible, start clinical trials on humans to move their discovery
forward. Dr. Zhou: There, I think, if we can develop
an autologous way to make cells, beta cells, from your own tissue and transfer it back,
I think that’s going to be tremendously exciting, a new therapeutic approach. Narrator: Congratulations Dr. Zhou and his
team. We wish you continued success. Dr. Zhou: We’re going to roll up our sleeves
and make it happen. Narrator: LabTV News: Diabetes, going behind
the scenes in labs across America, to report on the latest peer reviewed stories. To see
more stories, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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