While not having love handles in the first place would probably be an ideal situation, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have found an exciting new use for the cells that reside in the undesirable flabby tissue-creating pancreatic beta cells.
The ETH researchers extracted stem cells from a 50-year-old test subject’s fatty tissue and reprogrammed them into mature, insulin-producing beta cells.
Senior study author Martin Fussenegger, Ph.D., professor of biotechnology and bioengineering at ETH Zurich’s department of biosystems science and engineering stressed that it was essential to reproduce these natural processes as closely as possible to produce functioning beta cells, stating that “The timing and the quantities of these growth factors are extremely important.”
The ETH researchers believe that their work is a real breakthrough, in that a synthetic gene network has been used successfully to achieve genetic reprogramming that delivers beta cells.
While the beta cells not only looked very similar to their natural counterparts-containing dark spots known as granules that store insulin-the artificial beta cells also functioned in a very similar manner.
In future, the ETH scientists’ novel technique might make it possible to implant new functional beta cells in diabetes sufferers that are made from their adipose tissue.
“With our beta cells, there would likely be no need for this action since we can make them using endogenous cell material taken from the patient’s own body,” Dr. Fussenegger said.