New diabetes treatment teaches rogue immune cells to behave
FRIDAY, July 14, 2017 -- A treatment targeting wayward immune cells in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may help even years later, a new study finds.
For the treatment, researchers take blood from a person with diabetes and separate out the immune system cells (lymphocytes). They briefly expose those cells to stem cells from umbilical cord blood from an unrelated infant. Then they return the lymphocytes to the patient's body.
The researchers have dubbed this treatment "stem cell educator therapy," because when exposed to the stem cells, the errant lymphocytes seem to re-learn how they should behave.
"Stem cell educator therapy is a safe approach" with long-term effectiveness, said the study's lead author, Dr. Yong Zhao. He's an associate scientist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, occurs when the body's immune system cells mistakenly attack the insulin-producing, or beta, cells in the pancreas. This leaves people with type 1 diabetes with little to no insulin. They need insulin injections to survive.
Researchers have long thought that any cure for type 1 diabetes would have to stop the autoimmune attack, while regenerating or transplanting beta cells.
But Zhao and his team developed a new approach to the problem -- educating the immune cells that had been destroying beta cells so they stop attacking.
In type 2 diabetes, Zhao said immune cell dysfunction is responsible for chronic inflammation that causes insulin resistance. When someone is insulin resistant, their body's cells can't properly use insulin to us Continue reading