San Diego Business Journal

San Diego-based stem cell engineering company Novocell said Dec. 9 it will collaborate with renowned Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University to push forward stem cell treatments for type 1 diabetes.

As a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, Yamanaka and his colleagues discovered in 2006 they could reprogram skin cells from a mouse into pluripotent stem cells, capable of transforming into any number of cells in the body, such as muscle or heart.

Yamanaka's team discovered last year how to send human adult cells back to an embryonic state, laying the foundation for future research. The new cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, are believed to have the same properties as human embryonic stem cells.

Novocell said it would work with Yamanaka to create human islet cells, or insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas, from induced pluripotent stem cells.

A potential therapy could benefit people with type 1 diabetes, whose islet cells have been destroyed.

Until now, Novocell has focused its research on human embryonic stem cells, a controversial method because it requires the destruction of human embryos.

, Heather Chambers