Diabetes Stem Cell Therapy
Various clinical trials are in progress with some reporting positive treatments such as Diabetes Research Institute. Harvard, Viacyte and BioLogics are also running clinical trials.
What is Diabetes
Diabetes in simplest term is a chronic, lifelong condition that affects the body’s ability to use the energy found in food. Normally once the body breaks down the sugars and carbohydrates into glucose, insulin, a hormone in the blood stream is needed to take the glucose and use it for energy. Diabetic patients are unable to do that as either the body doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin it produces or even both. Which in turn builds up the level of glucose in a diabetic patient, causing damage to the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, heart, eyes or nervous system, eventually causing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and even nerve damage on the feet.
Diabetes is generally categorized into Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is known as juvenile-onset diabetes as it usually occurs during childhood and is considered an autoimmune condition where the immune system wrongly identifies and subsequently attacks the pancreatic cells that produce the insulin, leading to little or no insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is also known as Adult onset diabetes, where the body usually still produces insulin, but is not sufficient to meet demand and the body’s cell do not properly respond to the insulin (insulin resistance).
Stem Cell Therapy for Diabetes
Majority of stem cell research is concentrated on Type 1 diabetes as it can be traced to the loss of a single cell type, the beta cell. This makes it an ideal stem cell therapy candidate as the unlimited regenerative capacity and the flexibility to grow into hundreds of different type of cells, including the needed beta cells.
Two approaches are being used in research, using stem cells as beta-cell producing factories or as a beta cell repair catalyst. Both methods have the same goal which is to return the insulin to normal levels. Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) are running clinical trials and have a number of patients that are living insulin free after receiving a transplant of donor islet cells. As islet cells are in limited supply, there is currently a concerted research effort to take stem cells and mature them into islets.
There are many ongoing efforts to understand how stem cell therapy is able to help people with diabetes. One of the main centres is the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, where you can view the areas of research being conducted specifically to understand diabetes.