Stem cell research has brought a possible diabetes cure to within three years.According to a Thursday story in National Geographic a researcher named Doug Melton is on the brink of curing DIABETES TYPE 1. Melton, a professor at Harvard University, has developed a way to make an unlimited supply of beta cells that the body uses to create INSULIN using STEM CELLS, and protecting them against the body’s immune system. Insulin processes glucose in the human blood stream that otherwise would be toxic.
About three million Americans suffer from Type 1 Diabetes, a condition that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. Diabetics are obliged to take regular infusions of insulin, either by injection or through a pump. Nevertheless, people who suffer from the disease are prone to nerve damage that can lead to blindness, foot amputations, and even premature death.
Beta cell transplants have already had limited use for treating diabetes. Unfortunately, since such transplants come from dead donors, recipients are obliged to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives. However, since tissue created by stem cells have the same DNA makeup of the people receiving it, the problem of rejection is avoided.
|Stem cells are viewed on a computer screen at the University of Connecticut`s (UConn)
Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center on August 27, 2010 .
The process has worked remarkably well in rodent studies. Government approval of human testing is about a year away. Two years of testing beyond that lays ahead before the treatment can be made widely available. If and when the stem cell treatment is available, millions will be liberated from regular injections of insulin and monitoring of blood glucose levels that are the lot of people with type 1 diabetes.
“We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line,” Melton.stated. "It was gratifying to know that we can do something that we always thought was possible.”
The stem cell-derived beta cells are presently undergoing trials in animal models, including non-human primates, where they are still producing insulin after several months.
Diabetes currently affects more than 347 million people worldwide (10% of whom suffer from Type 1 diabetes developed in childhood)), and can lead to numerous health problems from neuropathy to heart and kidney disease, as well as blindness, etc.
Readers interested in learning more can find Melton’s study published in the journal Cell.