Stem Cell therapy uses sperm tissue for type 1 diabetes treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Men with type 1 diabetes could someday find treatment from their own stem cells, taken from a precursor of sperm tissue.

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) found one gram of human tissue from human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) is able to produce 1 million stem cells in the laboratory that naturally turns into insulin producing cells

The researchers explain human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) morph into insulin secreting beta cells found in the pancreas without any manipulation. The sperm cells already have the necessary genes to produce new beta cells. The scientists transplanted cells in to the backs of mice, finding they could control symptoms of hyperglycemia that accompanies type 1 diabetes.

According to G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Director of the Transgenic Core Facility at GUMC, "No stem cells, adult or embryonic, have been induced to secrete enough insulin yet to cure diabetes in humans, but we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield."


Past efforts at inducing stem cells to produce enough insulin to treat or cure diabetes have failed, but "we know SSCs have the potential to do what we want them to do, and we know how to improve their yield," explains Gallicano.

He says transplanting cells from the pancreas of deceased donors often leads to rejection. Reprogramming stem cells with other genes to act like embryonic stem cells - induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells – can cause tumors and grow poorly.

However, sperm cells can be turn into insulin secreting beta cells in several weeks and require no reprogramming of genes. For the current study, SSCs were obtained from deceased donors.

Gallicano says, "We found that once you take these cells out of the testes niche, they get confused, and will form all three germ layers within several weeks. These are true, pluripotent stem cells."

The findings could lead to a solution for treating juvenile diabetes, or type 1 diabetes. The study authors say glucose levels were controlled in the mice for a week. Since then, scientists have found they can increase the stem cell yield from SSCs that are the precursor to sperm cells, and can be taken from a man’s own sperm.



How soon do you think we are to seeing this happen for patients? My 19 year old son has been diagnosed for a year and a half....too soon can't happen!
Hi mom - I really don't know, but keep your eye on Here is a list of diabetes trials using stem cells. I know this is hard for you and I sincerely hope things progress - and as you say - it can't happen soon enough.
That sounds amazing for the male population but what about females. Can the SSC from the father be used in their own children?
I don't know the answer Sam.