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Tet1 Protein Creates Embryonic Cells for Diabetics


Researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have unraveled a piece of the embryonic stem cell puzzle. They have discovered the key protein, called Tet1, that helps stem cells stay stem cells.

The hope for future of embryonic stem cells is that they can be injected into patients, developed into cells that are need, such as those with Parkinson’s disease or even diabetes. If a patient’s pancreas is no longer producing insulin, simply insert embryonic cells to create pancreatic cells, and viola, the cure is there. Although even with the recent discovery of Tet1 and how it works, researchers are still a far way from that point.

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What this study showed was that the presence of Tet1 allowed a stem cell to stay a stem cell with an ability call pluripotent. This means that doctors can than take these cells and create different types of cells from them, including pancreatic cells or other cells that may help treat many conditions.

“This may be one component of a cocktail to reprogram a specialized cell to “go back” to the undifferentiated, embryonic stem cell state,” said Zhang, a Kenan distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. After that, the doctors can then decide what cell type to make it.

With this news may end the controversy over keeping embryonic stem cells for research. Some people have argued against the use of embryonic stem cell in research from aborted fetuses and the like. Once researchers are able to use Tet1 to transform an already created cell into an embryonic type cell, the need will no longer be there to use fetus’ provided embryonic cells.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.