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Prof. Kang Kyung-sun make stem cell breakthrough

Jan 25, 2007

A team of South Korean scientists claimed Tuesday they have succeeded in producing the first cure for diabetes using adult stem cells procured from umbilical cords.

Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in the body that divide to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues. They are capable of self-renewing indefinitely and generating all the cell types of the organ from which they originate.

The team led by Kang Kyung-sun, a veterinary professor at Seoul National University, said they have successfully transformed adult stem cells into beta cells.

Beta cells make and release insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood. The subject of replicating adult beta cells has been a major topic in the field of diabetes treatment studies.

"The use of adult stem cells could eliminate the inefficiency of requiring regular insulin shots among patients, as they have a tendency to self reproduce (when injected once)," said Kang.

The team also claimed that they have discovered a protein, dubbed Oct4, which activates the various differentiations of cells from the umbilical blood, of which they have already filed for an international patent.

The breakthrough is to be published on the online edition of U.S. bio journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications this week, according to the team.

Jan. 24, 2007