“It almost sounds like science fiction. Almost.” While seated in his office, Mark V. Sauer, MD, Chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, leans forward in his chair and smiles, perhaps reflecting upon the magnitude of the research in which he and colleagues created the first disease-specific embryonic stem cell line – turning what was once considered to be imagined science into reality.

Dr. Sauer, in collaboration with Dieter Egli, PhD, Assistant Professor of Developmental Cell Biology, Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, and Robin S. Goland, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, has successfully created a diploid pluripotent – a stem cell that has the potential to differentiate into any of the three germ layers from which all the body’s organs and tissues develop: endoderm (the interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, and lungs), mesoderm (the vascular system, muscle, and connective tissue), or ectoderm (the nervous system and epidermis).

“With this method, you can stop the passing down of mitochondrial diseases to future generations because their getting rid of that mitochondrial DNA from their own egg and replacing it with new DNA that’s repaired from the donated egg.” – Dr. Sauer

The researchers created these stem cells by transferring the nuclei from somatic cells (non-germ cells) of a newborn into oocytes (egg cells) of an adult female with type 1 diabetes. They then showed that the resulting pluripotent stem cells could be differentiated into insulin-producing beta cells, the cell type lost in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Simply put: The team created an avenue to a potential cure for diabetes and many other currently incurable diseases.

Read more about this groundbreaking study on the cover page of Connections.