Official Diabetes Blog: Stem Cell Cure for Diabetes?

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Scientists from New Orleans' Tulane University have used stem cells to repair damaged insulin-producing pancreas cells in mice. This had the effect of halting damage caused to the kidneys in the diabetic mice. The US researchers collected together a sample of mice showing symptoms of a mouse form of Type 2 diabetes. The symptoms included severe hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), decreased function in B and T cells (cells which form part of the body's immune system) and damaged kidneys.

According to the Official Diabetes Blog, scientists from New Orleans' Tulane University have used stem cells to repair damaged insulin-producing pancreas cells in mice. This had the effect of halting damage caused to the kidneys in the diabetic mice.

The US researchers collected together a sample of mice showing symptoms of a mouse form of Type 2 diabetes. The symptoms included severe hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), decreased function in B and T cells (cells which form part of the body's immune system) and damaged kidneys.

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes with an estimated 90-95% of sufferers being afflicted with this strain. Type 2 diabetics no longer produce enough insulin, or their bodies no longer respond to insulin effectively.

One group of mice were injected with stem cells (technically known as multipotent stromal cells). A second control group remained untreated and received no injection at all. After just three weeks, the mice treated with stem cells were seen to be producing higher levels of mouse insulin than untreated mice, and had lower blood sugar levels.

Interestingly, the stem cells implanted into the mice were not mouse stem cells at all. Rather, they were human stem cells.

Stem cells are cells which have not yet matured and in a sense 'decided' on what type of cell they will be. As a result, they have the capacity to turn into any kind of tissue in the body.

Tulane University Researcher Darwin Prockop said of the tests: "We are not certain whether the kidneys improved because the blood sugar was lower or because the human cells were helping to repair the kidneys. But we suspect the human cells were repairing the kidneys in much the same way they were repairing the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas."

The potential benefits of using stem cells in treating diabetes in humans is that it could slash long kidney transplant waiting lists (with renal failure being a potential symptom of advanced diabetes) as well as helping patients who are suffering from kidney damage to receive treatment more quickly.

It would also remove the need for immunosuppressant drugs which are necessary after transplants with the potential for stem cells to be grown from and re-implanted into the patient's own body. Immunosuppressant drugs greatly reduce the chances of the body rejecting the new organ, but these drugs in themselves can cause complications.

These benefits stand to have wide ranging implications throughout the diabetic community, and for patients suffering renal failure, who can spend years in dialysis on long kidney transplant lists.

To discuss this story and its implications with other diabetes sufferers, visit Officialdiabetesblog.com

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