Chris Abraham

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stem Cell Therapy to Cure Type 1 Diabetes in Adults

Diabetes exacts its toll on many Americans, young and old. For years, researchers have painstakingly dissected this complicated disease caused by the destruction of insulin producing islet cells of the pancreas. Despite progress in understanding the underlying disease mechanisms for diabetes, there is still a paucity of effective therapies. For years investigators have been making slow, but steady, progress on experimental strategies for pancreatic transplantation and islet cell replacement. Now, researchers have turned their attention to adult stem cells that appear to be precursors to islet cells and embryonic stem cells that produce insulin. From Curing Diabetes with Stem Cell Therapy Resources:
Stem cells, directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Professor Alan Trounson has highlighted research that has transformed human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes in mice. He says the technique could work equally with humans. "I do think we’ll get a cure to diabetes," he said.

Stem cells are the essential cellular building blocks that allow the body to regenerate new cells and repair tissue. Scientists are investigating the therapeutic potential of both embryonic and adult stem cells as a research tool to better understand-and develop treatments for-diseases that affect over 100 million Americans in their lifetime, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other debilitating conditions.

Stem cell therapy aimed at restoring blood flow to damaged limbs in people with diabetes has shown promise, according to UK company ReNeuron. Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

A handful of people with type 1 diabetes have been able to survive without insulin shots for more than two-and-a-half years, on average, after having their own blood stem cells removed and reimplanted through intravenous injection, U.S. and Brazilian researchers reported Tuesday.

The study involved the use of a technique called "autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation" or AHST for short. This type of treatment has been used to treat other autoimmune diseases successfully. Previous trials have shown that moderate suppression of the immune system in newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes patients can stop the further loss of beta cells and reduce the need for supplemental insulin.

Pancreatic islet cell transplantation and particularly stem cell-based therapies have a huge potential to restore glucose control in patients with diabetes, without risk of serious hypoglycemic adverse effects associated with insulin therapy, and safety issues of other anti-diabetes treatments.

In Australia, and many other countries around the world, stem cell therapy is only approved to treat blood disorders such as leukemia. Whilst research is moving rapidly and showing great promise, the use of any type of stem cell as a therapy for diseases like type 1 diabetes is still firmly classed as experimental. This doesn’t mean these therapies won’t work, just that scientists and clinicians have deemed there isn’t enough data available to demonstrate patient safety as well as a long term benefit.

Hopes have been raised of a new treatment to free thousands of diabetes sufferers from the burden of daily insulin injections. Scientists revealed findings of a study which shows that 15 young patients with type one diabetes overcame their dependence on insulin after being treated with their own stem cells.
Via Chris Abraham Blog

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