Embryonic cells produce insulin

By Megan Pellegrino
November 10, 2006

Recently, scientists at Novocell, a California biotechnology company, reported that they had developed a process turning embryonic cells into pancreatic cells that will in turn produce insulin.

This discovery will control or even put a stop to diabetes. A diabetic’s pancreas cannot produce an adequate amount of insulin. If a pancreas does not have enough insulin, the body will not use sugar properly.

Since diabetics cannot produce sugars properly, the body will end up turning other energies, like fats and proteins, and attempt to use these energies as sugars. This malfunction in diabetics leads to many different symptoms including dehydration, pH imbalances, or even cardiovascular problems.

The development made by Novocell can in turn cure or at the least manage diabetes. Novocell has come up with a treatment in which the embryonic cells can be transformed. The Novocell method though has not fully matured, According to the New York Times.

Novocell has not been able to vary their insulin production in response to the levels of glucose the patients body needs. Instead, the insulin created in the cells is constantly at the same level. Therefore, the treatment does not look at how much glucose the patient needs to make.

Even though more work is needed on the Novocell treatment, it is ultimately going to become an easier treatment to come by than the current treatments available.

Some people view using human embryos is morally wrong, while, others who feel that embryonic stem cell research is a very promising program in order to save lives.

“Many times the argument boils down to where a person feels human life begins and when a souls enters a human form,” Dr. David Dunbar associate professor of biology said.

“Clearly there are ethical issues associated with stem cell use, but many people don’t know that stem cells have been used for decades in treating disease,” Dr. Kimberly Boyd associate professor of biology said.

Adult stem cells, found in bone marrow, have been used for over 40 years and have treated various illnesses. Boyd states in 2001 that embryonic stem cells have been used to treat illnesses.

Embryonic stem cells are more useful than adult stem cells because they can be produced into any type of tissue in the body. They are unlike adult stem cells, which are limited to their uses.

Embryonic stem cells give the opportunity to do just what is being done at Novocell. “Clearly, I think there is a great potential,” Boyd said.

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Megan Pellegrino

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