One potential target of future research on EP cell lines is to derive the cells from patients with genetic forms of diabetes or liver disease and then use them to model the progression of the disease, potentially developing new therapies in the process.
“Our cell line offers a powerful new tool for modeling how many human diseases develop,” explained study leader Paul J. Gadue, PhD, of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in a statement. “Additionally, pancreatic beta cells generated from EP cells display better functional ability in the laboratory than beta cells derived from other stem cell populations.” Gadue acknowledges that more more work is required to characterize EP cells, but adds that the cells could offer “a potential source of safe, abundant cells for future diabetes treatments.”
The researchers also managed to coax the EP cells to turn into liver cells and intestinal cells—both of which normally develop from the endoderm tissue layer early in human development.
The scientists were able to create the cells by manipulating both embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
A bit more from the press release:
In cell culture, the researchers differentiated the EP cells into beta cells—insulin-expressing cells similar to those found in the pancreas. Those engineered beta cells passed an important test—when stimulated by glucose, they were able to release insulin, a function that is impaired or absent in patients with diabetes. While the cells achieved only 20 percent of normal function, this result is an improvement over that seen in similar cells derived directly from ESCs or iPSCs, which typically respond very poorly or not at all to glucose.