A Major Advance for Fighting Type 1 Diabetes?

An new breakthrough for Type 1 Diabetics using stem-cell therapy was just reported.  Details of  a new study by a team of Brazilian and American scientists are published in the vol 301 no. 15 of the April 15, 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study was led by Julio Voltarelli, from the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.

The trial had 23 patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes undergoing a stem cell therapy using stem cells drawn from their own blood.  20 of these patients used less insulin or none at all during the follow-up period. One of the patients in the study has not had to use additional synthetic insulin for three years. While this approach is not a cure, the new therapy reduces the patients’ own immune systems penchant for attacking insulin-producing cells.

The authors comment “Very encouraging results were obtained in a small number of patients with early-onset disease,”  They go on to say, “Ninety-three per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality.”
Here is a brief summary from the abstact of the paper in JAMA “In 2007, the effects of the autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in 15 patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) were reported. Most patients became insulin free with normal levels of glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) during a mean 18.8-month follow-up. To investigate if this effect was due to preservation of beta-cell mass, continued monitoring was performed of C-peptide levels after stem cell transplantation in the 15 original and 8 additional patients”  (http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/301/15/15730)

The title of the research is: C-Peptide Levels and Insulin Independence Following Autologous Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

 About Type 1 Diabetes:

 Type 1 diabetes mellitus, or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a condition where insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas stop working. This  leads to a deficiency of insulin. About 5% to 10% of the population has this form of diabetes. 

 There are 16 million diabetics in the United States.  According to the American Diabetes Association, there are an estimated 5.7 million people (almost 25% of those with diabetes in the United States) who are unaware they have the disease.

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1 Comment

  1. Jaye Marno says:

    The study is very promising — but there is not a realistic expectation of an actual cure in stem cell research for some time. It is something to hope for and support continuing research in this area, but a cure is probably not in sight for a number of decades.

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