What Knowledge Can Do

One step closer to stem cell breakthrough for diabetes


Dr. Cristina Nostro, holder of the Harry Rosen Chair in Diabetes Regenerative Medicine Research at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, is on a mission to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Bringing an international flair to her scientific background (she is from Italy and has done advanced training in England and the United States), Dr. Nostro joined the McEwen Centre in 2007 as a post-doctoral fellow.

Type 1 diabetes has long been considered to be an ideal candidate for stem cell therapy. Her discoveries made in the McEwen Centre labs now give her the ability to produce functioning, insulin-producing beta cells. Among stem cell scientists, there is a sense that they are getting closer to a cell therapy goal, effectively making the leap from bench to bedside.

Last year, Dr. Nostro published a groundbreaking study in Stem Cell Reports showing methods to effectively generate larger populations of pancreatic progenitor cells (essentially, pancreatic cells that can produce beta cells) using a wide range of pluripotent stem cells. Her research has shown that when these cells are transplanted into Type 1 models, they have successfully reverted glucose to normal levels. This will enable more efficient testing of these cells across a larger number of laboratories, increasing the odds – and the speed – of obtaining a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Nostro is also using a technique that allows the insulin-producing cells that are destroyed by Type 1 diabetes to be re-created in our laboratories. This will help her understand how the disease develops and perhaps lead to more effective treatments for the condition.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop new drugs that will modify the immune system so that it ends its attack on the beta cells.”

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