Researchers have reprogrammed adult exocrine cells from the pancreas into the much different and rarer insulin-producing beta cells, a feat that could lead to improvements in diabetes care (Zhou Q et al. Nature. 10.1038/nature07314 [published online ahead of print August 27, 2008]).
While the experiments were done in mice, they provide a proof of concept that relatively abundant adult cells of 1 type may be converted into other, therapeutically relevant cell types. Importantly, the investigators used a new genetic strategy that allowed them to avoid first converting the pancreatic exocrine cells into a primitive, stem cell–like state before turning them into insulin-secreting cells.
Hampton T. Adult Pancreatic Cells “Reprogrammed” Into Rarer Insulin-Producing Cells. JAMA. 2008;300(17):1988. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.534