New treatment for Type 1 Diabetes

A new study released today April 10, 2007, by JAMA showed significant improvements in fourteen of fifteen patients with Type 1, or Juvenile Diabetes, treated with adult stem cell, not embryo stem cells. Transplantation of the adult bone marrow stem cells resulted in the patients who have insulin-dependent, diabetes, being insulin free for several months, one for as long as thirty five months.

The study, conducted in Brazil, in collaboration with several U.S. scientists, is no doubt promising, considering the agony of going through life, often from an early age, injecting oneself with insulin, not to mention the ravaging effects of the disease on the body. The potential benefits of this treatment in reducing healthcare costs, hence health spending, soaring in many countries currently, is also noteworthy. This is more considering the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes, and the burden in human and material terms of these conditions.

A person’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes, unlike Type 2, or Adult-onset diabetes, due to insulin resistance. Thus, in Type 1 diabetes, it is important to preserve beta cells, which the researchers essentially achieved using high-dose immune suppression and stem cell transplantation, in the patients diagnosed with type I diabetes 6 weeks prior, using the patients stem cells injected back into them intravenously. Work is progressing apace to refine this treatment approach, which might revolutionize the treatment of this often chronic and devastating disease.

Reference:

Voltarelli JC, Couri CEB, Stracieri ABPL et al. Autologous Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus JAMA. 2007; 297:1568-1576

Available at: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/297/14/1568 Accessed on April 10, 2007