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Men may be able to grow a new pancreas from their testicles

Dead chaps' junk used to cure diabetic mice

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Topflight geneticists say they have managed to cure diabetes in mice by grafting material from dead men's testicles onto them. The development may mean that in future, human (male) diabetes sufferers can in effect grow a replacement bollock-based pancreas from such tissues.

According to an announcement from the lab involved, headed “Grow Your Own Transplant”:

The research team took 1 gram of tissue from human testes and produced about 1 million stem cells in the laboratory. These cells showed many of the biological markers that characterize normal beta islet cells. They then transplanted those cells into the back of immune deficient diabetic mice, and were able to decrease glucose levels in the mice for about a week – demonstrating the cells were producing enough insulin to reduce hyperglycemia.

The gram of tissue came from "deceased human organ donors" in this case, but the researchers flag up the idea that in future, male diabetes sufferers would offer up such a donation while still alive, allowing docs to produce stem cells from these functioning insulin-yielding ones – so controlling the illness without the various kinds of problems that go with other methods. (For instance suitable insulin-producer cells are sometimes taken from dead donors: but there aren't nearly enough such donors to go around, and furthermore the patient's body tends to reject such alien cells – which it wouldn't do with ones grown from its own familiar cells.)

“No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs [spermatogonial stem cells] have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield,” says medi-prof G Ian Gallicano, one of the boffins who carried out the experiments.

Potentially good – if eyewatering – news down the road for male diabetes sufferers, then. And Gallicano isn't sure, but he thinks it might be possible to carry out a similar procedure using female cells equivalent to SSCs – oocytes. ®

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