New Stem Cell Treatment "Switches Off" Type 1 Diabetes
For those with type 1 diabetes, regularly injecting themselves with insulin is part and parcel of their daily lives. This form of treatment hasn’t advanced much for nearly a century, so it will come as good news that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are on the verge of a breakthrough. As a study in Nature Medicine reveals, insulin-producing beta cells made from human stem cells have been shown to effectively “switch off” diabetes in mice for up to six months.
Within a healthy person’s pancreas, clusters of beta cells produce insulin in order to counteract rising blood sugar levels. Someone suffering from type 1 diabetes is unable to control their blood sugar levels, as their own immune system attacks and destroys these insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes, which makes up roughly 10 percent of all diabetes cases, is therefore a type of autoimmune disease, and is currently incurable.
In 2014, a team led by Harvard University made a significant step in developing a bonafide cure. Using human embryonic stem cells, the team induced them into becoming beta cells in large quantities – up to hundreds of millions at a time, enough to transplant them into a hyperglycemic mouse and watch them dramatically reduce the animal's blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, as with the mouse’s original beta cells, its faulty immune system destroyed the new, transplanted beta cells fairly quickly, so the technique didn't provide lasting benefits. Now, a team at MIT has found a way to hide these beta cells from the self-destructive immune system of mice su Continue reading