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.
Image by markus the bardus via Flickr
A new experimental therapy to treat diabetes, which involves transplanting embryonic pig stem cells into the diseased tissue, is currently being researched. Experiments have been done on primates, but the results that have been obtained indicate that in the future the same technique could be applied to human beings. For many years, pig organs have been considered the most best match to be used in human transplants, but strong immune reactions and powerful combinations of anti-rejection drugs have always represented an important obstacle in their clinical use.
A study published in the
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
Alan Lewis of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation distinguishes type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and continues to explain how stem cells are being used today to develop new treatments for type 1 diabetes (a.k.a. juvenile diabetes). Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) are being differentiated to the beta (insulin producing) cells that type 1 diabetics lack, and are being transplanted , in animal models. Since type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, the transplanted cells must be protect from destruction by the immune system. Currently, researchers are working towards that goal with encapsulating technologies and a “gentle” immuno-modulation. In
Image by Associazione Luca Coscioni via Flickr
Stem cells are providing more than just hope against diabetes. The first patients treated with adult stem cells are no longer taking anti-diabetic drugs, while ‘extraordinary results have been obtained in mice with embryonic stem cells,’ said Senator Ignazio Marino yesterday in Rome at the Changing Diabetes Barometer forum.
‘Embryonic stem cells are something that we must keep in mind,’ said Marino referring to the first encouraging results obtained in the United States, where last year, the first data on the possibility of controlling diabetes in mice was published as well as the