Could Stem Cells Cure Type 1 Diabetes?

What if a diseased part of your body could regenerate itself?

That’s the question that regenerative medicine asks and answers. And if scientists are right, they could cure type 1 diabetes.

Stem cells may well be the next frontline treatment for type 1 diabetes as it can help your body regenerate your b-cell function, which would restore your body’s ability to make insulin.

What does this treatment entail? Keep reading to learn more.

Why Stem Cells Could Cure Type 1 Diabetes

The key unlocking a type 1 diabetes cure has always lay in the pancreas, which is the malfunctioning organ that causes the disease.

In the past, researchers have explored the potential for pancreas transplants. While it does work, there aren’t enough donors to make it feasible for the wider population.

In the 1990s, physicians began looking at replacing the b-cell mass through a transplant. The b-cells are what generate insulin in the pancreas, and it is the lack of b-cells that cause type 1 diabetes. However, issues like the strenuous immunosuppressive drugs needed for the strategy to work have held it back. Moreover, the tissue declines after post-transplant. Only 10 percent of people who undergo the treatment stay off insulin five years later.

A stem cell therapy procedure, however, addresses all the issues above. What is more, type 1 diabetes patients are great candidates because they only need a particular cell type.

Theoretically speaking, patients could receive stem cells that transform into b-cells in the local pancreatic environment. Then, they would go to the damaged tissue and help the body maintain the appropriate level of b-cells to produce insulin. Because your body would see them as your cells, you wouldn’t need the immunosuppressive drugs required with the types of transplants listed above.

What’s Stopping Pancreatic Stem Cell Therapy

All of this sounds very promising, so why isn’t diabetes cured yet?

There’s a question regarding what kind of stem cells to use because scientists are still considering whether b-cell progenitors are available in the adult pancreas. In other words, they’re looking for a pancreatic stem cell, and they’re not sure whether it exists or how it creates b-cells.

The existence of these cells is meaningful because they signal whether researchers can use adult cells or embryonic cells in the treatment.

At present, there are clinical trials underway to understand the nuances of the pancreas better. However, researchers are not yet in a position to open up the treatment to the general public.

There’s Hope for Diabetes Yet

As scientists learn more and more about both the pancreas and stem cell therapies, we become more confident that we can cure type 1 diabetes – and potentially even type 2 diabetes, too. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet, but there are promising frontline treatments on the way.

Are you diabetic and looking for more ways to manage your disease? Be sure to visit our Wellness archives for more great articles on living a healthy, balanced life.

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