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.