Will Stem Cells Be The Solution In Curing Type 1 Diabetes?

Scientists, for the very first time, succeeded to create fully grown insulin-producing cells from human stem cells.

A new discovery is considered a crucial step in medicine. Scientists have never been so close in developing the cure of Type 1 diabetes, reported in the medical journal Nature Cell Biology.

Type 1 diabetes, being a congenital disease, has become one of the most common autoimmune diseases throughout the developed world. Only in the USA, 1.25 million people are affected, and each year 40,000 new patients get diagnosed. And if this wouldn’t be enough, statistics show around a 3 percent increase per year.

Radically increasing number of diabetes in the USA. Source: cdc.gov

These people’s pancreas can’t produce insulin as beta cells in them are destroyed. Without insulin hormone, glucose levels in the blood will not get regulated, and if blood sugar oscillates for a long time, it can cause serious problems in our body, our kidney can get damaged, and, at last, it can lead to death. Therefore, the only way these people can live their lives is getting a daily dose of insulin.

The problem with the current therapy is that insulin injections only handle the symptom, but not the disease itself – says lead author Dr. Gopika Nair, from the University of California San Francisco, in her statement. “This research can lead us to finally find the cure of the root cause.”

In the diabetes researches scientists have been focusing for long on the possibility of making the destroyed beta cells active again, and on several attempts, they even have tried to use stem cells for it. The problem was that creating stem cells in laboratory environment seemed to fail up to now, as they simply couldn’t get fully developed in a lab.

Active beta cells produce insulin. Source: vector.childrenhospital.org

The key to the solution was that this time the researchers carefully copied the way the beta cells get organized in a real pancreas. The cells build separate clusters called islets of Langerhans. Scientists followed this systematical process in a laboratory environment, and miraculously cells started to mature immediately, and beta cells started to produce insulin. On top of this, the method –as an incredible side effect – worked even at alpha and delta cells – they could fully develop, as well.

Dr. Nair’s college, Professor Matthias Hebrok, senior author, adds that from a practical point of view this all means that if these laboratory beta cells could get transplanted into patients and in the human body they will also produce insulin, it would mean the greatest success in curing the cause of type 1 diabetes. Trials with mice already gave good results, insulin production carried on in their bodies, and blood sugar levels got normalized.

Goal is to stop oscillation of blood sugar level. Source: learntruehealth.com

Certainly, the next step has to be human trials. This will have to get planned and implemented very carefully, they are analyzing now the possibility of a gene editing technology, or if the mechanism can work in a form of a drug.

We will find the way, many doors got open and the number of possibilities is just endless. – Hebrok closed his words.

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