Hope for a Type 1 Diabetes Cure? 15 Patients Off Insulin After Stem Cell Treatment

Picture of an Adult Stem Cell - Courtesy biotechblog.org

| Apr 12, 2007

Researchers from Sao Paulo in Brazil have announced that in a group of fifteen insulin-requiring, newly-diagnosed patients with type 1 diabetes, stem cell therapy has preserved beta cell function and eliminated the need for insulin for up to 35 months so far.

The procedure is called autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHST). First the patients underwent high-dose chemotherapy to eliminate the white blood cells that were attacking the pancreas. The process shut down their immune system and stopped further destruction of the twenty to forty percent of their beta cells that remained. Then they were injected with a chemical that freed their own (autologous) stem cells from their bone marrow, which is full of stem cells. These hematopoietic stem cells (bone marrow cells that are precursors of immune T-cells) were filtered out of their blood, treated, and then re-injected into their blood stream in order to re-start a new and better immune system.

By using this procedure, the researchers apparently reset or retrained the patients immune systems, and the symptoms of diabetes were reversed. The researchers believe that the stem cells developed into new white blood cells that do not attack the pancreatic beta cells.

Fourteen of the patients, who began the trial at varying times, no longer have to use insulin: one has been insulin-free for 35 months, four for twelve months, and seven for six months. Two who started late have been insulin-free for one and five months each. One patient resumed insulin use one year after AHST.

The findings are considered very preliminary, as the study was small, quite short, and did not have a control group. None of the researchers feel comfortable calling the procedure a cure or even a breakthough. There are still numerous questions about how exactly how it works and for how long. It is still not known whether the patients honeymoon period, in which the beta cells still function for a time after diagnosis, played into the results.


JAMA, April 2007


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Posted by Anonymous on 15 November 2007

I became a diabetic at 5 and have lived with it for 45 years. I believe a cure will be found but not in my lifetime. I have seen many changes in the management of this desease, in that time, and it has made my life more enjoyable. I take my hat off to the researchers that are trying to find a cure. Keep up the GOOD WORK.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2008

I believe that the sicknesses of our country feed our political system through economics. If people were cured of diabetes then a substantial amount of money would not be filtered through our political and economy. It is those sicknesses that keep the doctors afloat and taking their varied vacations feeding off of sick people. To cure people would mean to put doctors out of business. The fda wouldn't approve such a cure for those reasons. The funds not only put money in doctors pockets but politicians as well. Pharmacutical companies would never want to cure anyone; they also feed our politicians as they will continue to play with our emotions.

Posted by Anonymous on 31 March 2009

I hope from my heart that treatment will be very effective throughout the life and to be no need againe for everyday injection by insuline so please HAARRYYYYY UP!!!!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 14 April 2009

I was diagnosed type 1 at 18yo, and have since then been very optimistic to the idea of a cure. I work for a company that is directly affected by most all changes in treatments and procedures in medical field. I work hand-in-hand with nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and physicians who make their living 'off of the sick'. Of all these individuals, not one of them are worried about cures and prevention treatments putting us out of business. I think it is rediculous to think that no cure will be found or approved due to the possibility that the medical industry might take a hit financially. I do see the point which was being made, but would disagree with the thought of the government ("politicals") tying the hands of researchers. Lastly, I hope that everyone(from the cold sufferer to the renal failure patient to the cancer patient) will be offered fair treatment to include a future cure.
-Daniel, Elizabethtown, KY, USA.

Posted by Anonymous on 16 April 2012

How about following this research up. Nobody has reported how these patients have progressed. I think it's important work despite the justified criticisms of it being a premature trial.

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