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Stem cell transplant for diabetes

A treatment that included stem cell transplantation induced prolonged insulin independence in patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.

Stem cell transplant for diabetes

In a recent study, stem cell transplantation induced prolonged insulin independence in patients with newly diagnosed type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes. While the same approach has been used in other autoimmune disorders, the current study represents the first time the approach has been used in human type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, a person's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Preserving beta cells is a key concept in the management of type 1 diabetes and in the prevention of its related complications. Stem cell transplantation involves the harvesting and treatment of a patient's own stem cells and then returning them to the patient via intravenous injection. Researchers from the Regional Blood Center in Ribeiro Preto, Brazil, tested the ability of high-dose immune suppression and stem cell transplantation to preserve beta cell function in 15 patients who were diagnosed with type I diabetes in the previous 6 weeks. All of them required insulin. During follow up, 14 patients became insulin-free – one for 35 months, 4 for at least 12 months, and 7 patients for at least 6 months. Two late responders were insulin-free for 1 and 5 months, respectively. The therapy was well tolerated; the only severe side effects were pneumonia in one patient and endocrine dysfunction in two others. While further studies are needed, the time may indeed be coming to start reversing and preventing type I diabetes.
Journal of the American Medical Association,
April 2007
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