Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from hereditary diabetes, a condition that destroys cells in the pancreas and leaves the body unable to regulate blood sugar levels.
Sufferers are forced to inject themselves with insulin everyday and adopt special diets to cope with the irreversible condition.
But now scientists claim a cure could be developed after cells in the liver were converted to insulin producers in research on mice.
They believe the process, described in the journal Developmental Cell, could one day lead to a permanent one-off cure for the disease.
A DRUG said to cure diabetes could mean that sufferers will no longer need to take daily insulin injections.
The treatment uses stem cells made from human bone marrow and has been tested on patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes – which affects about 900,000 people in Britain.
Diabetes causes the immune system to attack the pancreas, the organ that makes insulin, which then controls blood-sugar levels.
Sufferers must take insulin injections to stay alive because if blood-sugar levels are allowed to rise too high or get too low, they could fall into a coma and die.
But early trials by American scientists
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Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have converted stem cells from the human endometrium into insulin-producing cells and transplanted them into mice to control the animals’ diabetes.
The endometrium, or uterine lining, is a source of adult stem cells. Normally, these cells generate uterine tissue each month as part of the menstrual cycle. Like other stem cells, however, they can divide to form other kinds of cells.
The study’s findings suggest the possibility that endometrial stem cells could be used to develop insulin-producing islet cells. These islet cells could then be used to advance the study
A particular type of stem cell transplantation using the patient’s own cells led to short-term freedom from insulin injections in 20 of 23 patients newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes participating in an experimental protocol in Brazil.
One patient even managed to go four years without needing outside sources of insulin, although the average was 31 months, said the authors of a report in the April 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a themed issue on diabetes.
The patients also kept their blood sugar under control, which is key to preventing complications from diabetes. And, the authors