For the millions of people worldwide with type 1 diabetes who cannot produce sufficient insulin, the potential to transplant insulin-producing cells could offer hope for a long-term cure. Pancreatic stem cells, the precursors of insulin-producing cells, have not yet been identified in humans or animals, and there is much debate about where they may reside. The discovery of a marker to help identify and isolate stem cells that can develop into insulin-producing cells in the pancreas would be a critical step forward.
Ivka Afrikanova, Ayse Kayali, Ana Lopez, and Alberto Hayek, University of California, San Diego, CA, have identified a biochemical marker—stage-specific embryonic antigen 4 (SSEA4)—that they propose can be used to identify and purify human pancreatic stem cells. The article “Is Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigen 4 a Marker for Human Ductal Stem/Progenitor Cells” in BioResearch Open Access, reports that when grown in culture with high levels of glucose and B27, these SSEA4+ stem cells can differentiate into insulin-producing pancreatic cells.