About Diabetes Stem Cell Therapy
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What is diabetes?
This is a common chronic medical condition that results from the body having problems regulating sugar levels. Most forms of diabetes are managed by daily insulin injections. Insulin is produced by beta cells in the pancreas which are arranged into clusters called islets of Langerhans. The pancreas is located in the abdomen next to the stomach and the small intestines. Beta cells are located next to blood vessels flowing through the pancreas.Common types of diabetes
How is diabetes treated at the moment?
- Type 1 diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs when the beta cells are damaged and destroyed by the body’s immune system. This results in the blood sugar levels constantly staying high which can cause long-term damage to the body.
- Type 2 diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs when the beta cells do not produce enough insulin or if the insulin produced does not work properly.
Presently diabetes has no cure. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with regular exercise and a healthy diet but type 1 diabetes cannot. People with type 1 diabetes have to often test their blood sugar levels and administer insulin through a pump or injections when needed.
High blood sugar levels can cause serious complications such as heart damage, damage to the kidneys, blood vessels, eyes, and nerves. Moreover, injecting too much insulin can lead to hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels) which can lead to death.
Type 1 diabetes can be treated by a transplant of isolated islet cells, which contain beta cells or a whole pancreas from a donor into the patient. Transplants enable the body to control the blood sugar levels. This then means that administering of insulin is not required. Because transplant of a whole pancreas involves major surgery and risk islet transplantation is more common.Problems with islet transplantation include:
How can stem cells help?
- Inadequate number of donors, which cannot meet the demand. In addition, the donated islets have to be of good quality and in the right amounts.
- Because transplants require suppression of the immune system, which leaves the body vulnerable to infections.
- The transplant is eventually destroyed by the immune system and further transplants are needed.
Currently, there are no proven treatments using stem cells for diabetes. If beta cells could be produced in a lab, the problem of obtaining the right quality and number of islets for transplant can be solved.Current research on stem cell therapy to treat diabetes
Pluripotent stem cells into beta cells
This involves making beta cells from mature pluripotent stem cells in the lab which are then transplanted into diabetic patients.Another type of cells into beta cells
This involves making beta cells from other types of cells such as liver cells and then transplanting them into diabetic patients.Medication
- This involves administering drugs which trigger the patient’s own pancreas to produce new beta cells.
- Advantages of stem cell therapy to treat diabetes
- There is no risk of transmissible diseases contamination
- There are no side effects and rejection since the patient’s own stem cells is used.
Learn more about Diabetes