Skin Grafts Could Replace Insulin Shots for Diabetes

Skin grafts that trigger insulin release may be possible thanks to a gene editing tool called CRISPR. Researchers recently tested the grafts on mice with insulin resistance similar to diabetes type 2. The result was positive and the research team hopes to test the grafts further as well as develop CRISPR grafts for other metabolic diseases.

"We didn't cure diabetes," the team's research lead said, "but it does provide a potential long-term and safe approach for using skin epidermal stem cells to help people with diabetes.."

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The research is being conducted at the University of Chicago using the new way to edit specific genes in the body.

CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a sort of biological "cut-and-paste" technique that's seen a lot of research lately. It's being explored as a way to cure HIV, slow cancer cell growth, and more. Using CRISPR techniques, the researchers at the U of Chicago altered a gene responsible for encoding a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone triggers insulin release which removes excess glucose from the blood.

The GLP-1 gene was changed to make its effects last longer than normal and the genes were then applied to skin grafts that were put on mice with precursors to type 2 diabetes. About 80 percent of those grafts were successful in releasing the changed hormones into the blood of the mouse hosts and the grafts regulated glucose levels for over four months.

Side effects of the improved glucose management were weight loss and a lowering of type 2 precursor symptoms such as fatigue.

With new developments towards growing skin tissues in the lab, without requiring removal from a patient, this treatment could become a relatively low-cost option for diabetic control, the researchers hope.

Source: ScienceAlert.com

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