Friday, April 17, 2009

Stem Cells May Free Diabetics From Insulin

From Newsmax Health

Type 1 diabetics may be able to free themselves from insulin shots with injections of their own stem cells.
A research team from the University of São Paulo in Brazil and Northwestern University near Chicago has treated patients with Type 1 diabetes by treating them with their own stem cells.
In 2007, Dr. Julio Voltarelli of the University of São Paulo reported the successful treatment of 15 patients with Type 1 diabetes who were able to eliminate the daily, painful grind of insulin injections. In the new study, which included an additional eight patients, the stem-cell treatment led to the resurgence of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
“I wouldn’t use the word cure,” said Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University, a co-author. “But it appears we changed the natural history of the disease. It’s the first therapy for patients that leaves them treatment-free — no insulin, no immune suppression for almost five years,” he told Time magazine.
The treatment extracts and stores a patient’s stem cells. Patients then receive drugs, similar to those cancer patients receive, to destroy their immune systems. During the procedure, the elements in their immune systems that destroy the insulin-producing cells also are destroyed. When the stored stem cells are re-injected into patients, the cells regenerate a new immune system free of the elements that attack and kill the insulin-producing cells.
The treatment helped 20 of the 23 diabetics. Patients were free of insulin injections in an average of 31 months, and 12 remain insulin-free. Even though eight had to return to using insulin, the amounts needed were reduced. In some patients the levels of C-peptide, a component that is a result of insulin being produced, tripled.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when a patient’s immune system attacks itself and begins destroying cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels even. In the past, it was referred to as “juvenile diabetes” because the majority of cases were diagnosed in children. More than 1 million Americans, both adults and children, have the disease.
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