A team of Singapore researchers has made a breakthrough in developing an unlimited number of pure insulin-producing cells from mouse embryonic stem cells that are highly effective in treating diabetes.

These pure insulin-producing cells have the same sub-cellular structures as the insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) announced Thursday.

The agency said the findings were made by researchers from the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) under A*STAR and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM ) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The researchers were co-led by Dr Lim Sai Kiang, a principal investigator with IMB and a research associate professor at the Department of Surgery, YLLSoM, and Dr Li Guodong, a research associate professor at National University Medical Institutes of NUS.

A*STAR said experiments by Dr Lim and Dr Li’s group showed that when transplanted into diabetic mice with high blood glucose levels, the pure insulin-producing cells would cause the blood glucose levels of the animals to decrease.

The experiments also showed that the subsequent removal of the transplanted cells from the diabetic mice would restore the blood glucose to its original level.

It was also discovered that none of the diabetic mice involved in the transplants developed ‘teratoma’, a type of tumour often associated with embryonic stem cells which could complicate their use in therapeutic treatment.

The pure insulin-producing cells also managed to retain their insulin-production and glucose-sensing capacity over time.

A*STAR said the researchers’ achievement provided proof of the principle that this strategy could be applied to human embryonic stem cells to obtain similar pure insulin-producing cells.

The research findings have been published in two papers in this year’s online version of the journal, ‘Stem Cell Research’.