In April 2010, researchers at the University of Sau Paulo in Brazil, led by Julio C. Voltarelli, MD, PhD were able to enable 14 out of 15 diabetics under trial, to be free from insulin. Since type 1 diabetes damages your body’s capacity to produce insulin of its own, it needs to be supplemented with injections. In the blood stem cell trial done in Sao Paulo University, the patients lived without insulin injections for a period of 1 to more than 36 months.
This was the first time stem cell treatment was tried for treatment of any disease other than autoimmune diseases. The early success tasted in the treatment of type 1 diabetes is encouraging but it is far from becoming a cure at this stage. A lot of research needs to be undertaken, including biological studies and clinical trials to confirm the findings of this experiment.
Another such trial is underway in the USA, where the stem cells extracted from men’s testes are going to be used for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. In this disorder, the white blood cells of the body destroy those cells of the pancreas that process glucose with insulin, a hormone that is produced in the pancreas itself. Trials on diabetic mice have been successful and very encouraging.
The method used by scientists in USA is to extract cells from the testes of donors, who aged in the range of 16 to 57, and bring them to their embryonic state by a process that lasts 2 weeks. They intend to grow the pancreatic cells through the embryonic cells and so far only the mice have been lucky enough to be treated. It remains to be seen whether the tendency of self-destruction of pancreatic cells would pose a problem if this treatment is tried on humans.
In both the studies mentioned above, there has been early success and they have been very promising. It is likely to take its own due course of testing, trials, peer review and approval before it is finally approved for mass treatment.
Both the experiments are in their nascent stage. The one conducted in the Brazilian university have very few people and its long term impact is still under study. In the US experiment, human trials are yet to be undertaken. It is a novel idea to enable stem cells to grow into pancreatic cells which can turn start processing insulin normally and one that diabetics should look forward to being implemented successfully.
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