Adult Stem Cell Implants Make Newly Diagnosed Type 1s Insulin-Free

Although the results of the transplantation experiment are promising, the procedure itself is radical. Patients must have their immune systems suppressed by powerful drugs before receiving the stem cells. Significant percentages of the study’s 23 patients experienced troubling side effects.

May 12, 2009

After American and Brazilian researchers implanted 23 newly diagnosed type 1 patients with their own adult stem cells, 12 of the patients became insulin-free for periods lasting from 14 to 52 months (the mean was 31 months).

The researchers, from the University of São Paulo and Northwestern University near Chicago, used a method called autologous nonmyeloablative HSTC (hematopoietic stem cell transplantation), in which they transplanted immature blood stem cells into the patients after killing their immune cells with powerful toxins.

Because the stem cells had not been "programmed" to destroy insulin-producing beta cells, they allowed the patients' remaining beta cells to regain their function. The scientists noted increases in the patients' C-peptide levels, a common indicator of properly functioning insulin production.

The researchers had originally implanted adult stem cells in 15 patients, aged 13 to 31. Most of them became insulin-independent for a mean period of almost 19 months. But outside researchers questioned whether the results were caused by a prolonged "honeymoon" period brought on when the patients extensively altered their eating and exercise habits. (It's not uncommon for people who have been newly diagnosed with type 1 to enjoy an insulin-free period after they make dramatic changes in behaviors that aggravate the condition. In almost all cases, though, the "honeymoon" ends, and the patients must begin taking insulin again.)

In response, the American and Brazilian team added eight more type 1 patients to the study, paying special attention to their C-peptide levels after the implants. They found that in the 12 patients who experienced prolonged insulin-free intervals, C-peptide levels increased 349 percent from their pre-transplantation levels over a 24-month period. At 36 months, their C-peptide levels were still almost 324 percent of their pre-transplantation levels. A1c levels in the group's members remained below 7% throughout their insulin-free periods.

Although the results of the transplantation experiment are promising, the procedure itself is radical. Patients must have their immune systems suppressed by powerful drugs before receiving the stem cells. Significant percentages of the study's 23 patients experienced troubling side effects:

  • Two patients (8.7 percent of the group) developed pneumonia while undergoing immunosuppression therapy.
  • Nine patients (39 percent) developed low sperm counts after exposure to one immunosuppressant drug.

The results of the study have been published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Posted by Better Cell on 11 May 2009

Would it not be better to spend the time and $$ just to find out why the Immune System attacks the Insulin producing cells in the first place?
This way, the use of toxic immunosuppressive drugs can be avoided and research can develop in another direction.

Posted by Anonymous on 12 May 2009

The treatment seems to be a bit rough on the patient. Can the same be done with some of the new monoclonal antibodies or similar drugs?. The very interesting thing is the increase in C-peptide level. It seems that when the immune attack stops, beta cells would regenerate in a period of 24 months or so. Any more insight into that?

Posted by Anonymous on 12 May 2009

My brother recently had a low blood sugar at night and for some reason vomited and cut off the oxygen to his brain for an unknown length of time. He is still in intensive care and not responding. Has anyone out there ever experienced or heard of this happening and the person's recovering and the time it took? Anything would be appreciated. Thanks, Otis

Posted by Anonymous on 18 May 2009

How about those who have Type 1 Diabetes for more than 20 yrs?? Can this stem cell treatment still work. Especially if the A1C's are in perfect control. If anyone can shed some light, it would be greatly appreciated.

Signed Bittersweet!

Posted by shosty on 19 May 2009

I have never heard that the honeymoon period is due to dietary and exercise changes. Our daughter had a prolonged honeymoon at age 5, with no such changes. Type 1's, unlike type 2's, do not usually address the disease primarily through lifestyle changes. Is this a knowledgeable diabetes writer?

Posted by shosty on 19 May 2009

To anonymous:

I am sorry to read about your brother. A doctor could better answer your question about recovery.

I just wanted to respond to your post and say that you and your brother are in our thoughts, and we hope that he recovers.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

This sounds like Dr. Foustmans research at Mass. Gen. Hospital. Her treatment is similar to this. I am a type one. Please find a cure

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

question though, where are they getting these stem cells from in your own body?
the only problem i can see with this is that when your immune system is suppressed you are like an AID's patient as you have lost your immunities to EVERYTHING, any common bugs could potentially cause death in the patient. If they found a way to keep you in complete isolation and managed to find shots that gave back immunities to all the common bugs including tetnus, mumps, whooping cough, etc then it would be absolutely awesome. lets just hope they get there!

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

To the person above about the brother. Hypoglycemia can cause comas but I've heard of vomiting to be the cause of a coma. Hope your brother recovers quickly and fully.

Regarding the article, it seems ridiculous that status quo researchers were criticizing the study because of lifestyle changes. A commenter above me has also pointed out that lifestyle is not a cause of Type 1 autoimmune diabetes but rather, a broken immune system. Finally someone is addressing the real issue here which is AUTOIMMUNITY!!! Kudos for Dr. Burt for following through on his resarch even when the protectors of the status quo are in full assault. It is my belief that established Type I autoimmune diabetes could be treated with this method as well. The problem is not lifestyle; the problem is a broken immune system that's just begging to be fixed.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

My husband has been Type 1 diabetic for 45 years and our daughter for 25 years. When my daughter was newly diagnosed at 4 years of age we were told the cure would be within the next decade. I pray that the research conducted not only addresses newly diagnosed but also "veteran" diabetics who have lived with this disease so long. My husband and daughter have never let diabetes get in the way of living their lives. Please researchers continue your valuable work, but please, hurry up so they can see a cure in their lifetimes.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

My brother, with type 1 diabetes also suffered severe hypoglycemia 2 years ago. He remained in ICU for 6 weeks and went to a rehab. Unfortunately, he cannot talk, cannot follow commands, is not able to control bowel or bladder. With assistance he can walk. Hypoglycemia is devastating!

Posted by andy on 19 May 2009

my son is 7 he been dignosed 1 year ago that stem cell when its done it would be effective for him

Posted by Anonymous on 19 May 2009

my beta cells died from a antibiotic after 2 exposures in a two month period. It was seven years ago... why couldn't I be a test subject. I am sure the drug is way out of my system. This may jump start it to work again!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 May 2009

There is currently a clinic in Desseldorf and Cologne, Germany that does a similar procedure, using autologous stem cells from the patient's iliac portion of hip. Because they come the patients own body, there is not need for immune system suppression and the results that they have achieved are as significant as those in this study. I question why the protocol in this study apparently utilized stem cells from an outside source, and not the patient's own stem cells. The program in Cologne is called the Xcell-Center Diabetes mellitus treatment.Check out this program. It is an outpatient procedure. The adult stem cells are delivered via catheter to the pancrease. Results occur over a 1 to 6 month period of time. abw killeen texas

Posted by Anonymous on 2 June 2009

Its funny how they are trying to do this, yet we know for a fact that pertusis in the vaccinations causes type 1 diabetes in Mice and yet the vaccines are still being made. Funny how they plan on temporarily fixing type 1 by stem cell transplants which are painful, can make you very ill and still is not a long term cure. Why because there is big money in Diabetes and is just silly to cure when big business makes a lot of money off our misery.

Posted by Anonymous on 21 February 2010

what are the latest developments regarding diabetes cure

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