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Stem cell studies provide insight into type 2 diabetes

Meri Firpo, Ph.D. Pioneering research by University of Minnesota diabetes and stem cell expert Meri Firpo, Ph.D., is giving hope to millions of people with diabetes by bringing scientists closer to finding a cure.

An assistant professor in the University’s Stem Cell Institute and Schulze Diabetes Institute, Firpo is one of the first scientists in the world to produce a special kind of stem cell from a reprogrammed skin cell. This special stem cell has the capacity to reduce glucose levels and reverse type 1 diabetes in mice—and, potentially, in people. “One of the goals is to use patients’ own cells to cure their disease,” Firpo explains.

While this research is moving to a cure for type 1 diabetes, it is also providing valuable insights into type 2 diabetes.

Using stem cells, Firpo is investigating the mechanisms of islet cell death in the hopes of discovering methods to protect these cells from being damaged by type 2 diabetes. She will also be testing stem cells from type 2 diabetic patients to see whether they make islet cells differently than those from patients with type 1 diabetes. These research findings could lead to new therapies for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

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