14 November 2008
By, Umesh Isalka
If proven right, this will provide the medical fraternity a huge source of “Pancreas–committed’ stem–like cells for treatment of Type I diabetes and crores of sufferers a hope to lead a new life.
The experiment has so far been successfully carried out on mice and Hardikar is currently working with scientists at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad for taking the studies a step further further and experiment with large animal models.
“We submitted the study proposal to committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) to seek permission for further experiments on animals like monkeys,’ said G C Mishra, director, NCCS.
“The committee has now favourably considered this proposal and we are now beginning to strengthen our collaboration with scientists at the NIN for initiating the experiments on monkeys,’ Mishra added.
“Our studies are in progress and all I can say now is that if you are a mouse, we can cure you using these pancreatic precursor cells,’ said Hardikar in a lighter vain.
If the second stage of experiments succeeds, we will collaborate with surgeons and basic scientists at the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology (AIG), Hyderabad, to obtain similar pancreas derived precursor cells in a clean room setting. But it will take another five years to come out with some data, Hardikar said.
Senior scientist Ramesh Bhonde, who is working on mesenchymal cells derived from placenta and human umbilical chord for use in cell replacement therapy for diabetes, said, “Islets derived mesenchymal cells are better candidates since they are obtained from cells that know how to produce insulin.’
Hardikar has also been working on identifying other adult cell types that have the ability to produce insulin.
“Recently, we have reported for the first time that in a substantial number of human populations, cells lining the gall bladder have the ability to produce insulin,’ said Hardikar.
The gall bladder is a sac–like organ located close to the liver and functions in storing bile juice that helps in digestive process.
With the help of city–based gastroenterologists, we have been able to assess these cells that have potential to produce insulin. These findings have recently been accepted for publication in Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, USA, he informed.
Hardikar explained that cholecystectomy, a procedure that involves removal of gall bladder (due to development of stones in the organ) is a fairly routine procedure. “We are presently involved in molecular characterisation of this cell population’ he said. If we are successful in achieving growth and proliferation of these cells, they may provide a source of insulinproducing cells for autologous transplantation in humans, he said.
Calling it a potential research, city based diabetologist Shailaja Kale said the work has tremendous scope and bright future ahead.
“If the work gets through all the phases clinical trials successfully, it would be a breakthrough research that would eliminate the threat of diabetes, which have assumed an epidemic proportion now,’ said Kale.
Who will benefit?
Those with Type I diabetes will benefit. The present WHO criteria defines Type I as the class where patients need insulin injections to maintain normal blood glucose levels. There are patients who are type 2 diabetics which later on at an age of 50 or 60 or more develop the need to inject insulin for maintenance of normal glucose levels. They too would benefit from this research.
Development of diabetes research l December 2005: Hardikar initiated research in diabetes at NCCS, Pune
l December 2006: Identified pancreatic mesenchymal stem–like cells
l January 2007: Began functionality tests on mice
l November 2008: Succeed in curing diabetes in mice!
l Proposed studies in monkeys to end by mid–2010.
l Assessment of data and initiation of future studies by January 2011.
Commemorating World Diabetes Day