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Japanese medical equipment maker Arkray has developed a system that automates the culturing of insulin-producing pancreatic cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.

The system needs tweaking in order to grow the cells in massive quantities, but the hope is that a version for research purposes will be ready within three years, offering a path to the treatment of diabetes by using regenerative medicine to restore the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin.

Kyoto-based Arkray is a leading global maker of equipment for diabetes testing and blood glucose management. Created from mature cells, iPS cells can be transformed into a variety of different cell types.

Working in collaboration with the Kyoto University Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences and building on the institute’s research, Arkray has developed an efficient way to coax iPS cells to differentiate into the type of pancreatic cells found in the islets of Langerhans, where insulin is made.

The current prototype system can create cell clumps comprised of 330 pancreatic islet cells. The next goal is to triple the quantity to 1,000 cells. A human adult’s pancreas contains some 1 million pancreatic islet cells, so Arkray aims to develop a practical way to produce the cells in massive quantities. Doctors have high hopes for a new treatment procedure in which pancreatic islet cells are introduced to the patient’s body via an intravenous drip.

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