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Wednesday, April 11th 2007

Stem Cells Cure Diabetes?

Stem Cells Break The Picket Line
(Although It Looks Like This Guy Has Type II)

Brazilian and American scientists have apparently used stem cells to recreate diabetics’ immune systems and ween their bodies back into producing insulin.

Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

Let’s make it clear. They aren’t recreating beta cells from stem cells. They’re destroying the immune system of these diabetics who are early enough in the pathophysiology to have beta cells left capable of regenerating and restoring adequate insulin production, and then putting stem cells in place to recreate the immune system. They’re hoping the “new” immune system will have less propensity towards destroying the insulin producing capabilities of the pancreas.

The new study, by a joint team of Brazilian and American scientists, found that one of the first patients to undergo the procedure has not used any supplemental synthetic insulin for three years. “Very encouraging results were obtained in a small number of patients with early-onset disease,” the authors, led by Julio Voltarelli, from the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. write. “Ninety-three per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality.”

Still you can’t take this as anything but good news.

Here’s the complete study in JAMA (subscription required) and an editorial on the findings (subscription required).

H/T Drudge