CRISPR skin grafts could replace insulin injections for diabetes – New Scientist

Genetically modified skin grafts have protected mice from developing diabetes, suggesting the technique may help people with the condition.

The method makes use of the gene that encodes a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone decreases appetite and helps regulate blood sugar levels by triggering the release of insulin, which removes excess glucose from the blood.

However, the hormone only works for a short period. To tackle this, Xiaoyang Wu at the University of Chicago, Illinois, and his colleagues used CRISPR gene-editing to alter the GLP-1 gene so it would make a hormone that is active in the blood for longer. They then inserted this gene into mouse skin cells in a dish, and developed them into skin grafts that could be transplanted onto mice, letting the modified hormone get into their blood.

Skin therapy

The grafts were given to mice that were fed a high-fat diet. These mice went on to gain around half as much weight as those not given grafts, and developed less resistance to insulin. High insulin resistance is a common precursor to type 2 diabetes.

The researchers gained similar results when they made the grafts out of human skin and transplanted them onto hairless mice.

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