Types 1 diabetes is a common condition for many people, which requires that the patient injects insulin into their bodies regularly to combat the fact that their bodies can’t produce enough of it themselves. While this treatment isn’t advanced and isn’t considered a cure, it’s been around for almost a century as one of the only ways to cope with the condition. However, stem cell therapy is showing promise as a way to switch off the condition.
What Your Pancreas Does
People with a healthy pancreas have a variety of cells that produce insulin to counteract the rising of blood sugar. However, if you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, and you cannot control your blood sugar levels naturally because your immune system destroys those cells.
Who, What, Where, When
In 2014, Harvard University led a team to help find a cure. By using stem cell therapy, they found they could create beta cells in large amount (hundreds of millions) and transplant them into mammals to reduce blood sugar levels. While the treatment option didn’t work for long, teams at MIT have discovered that it’s possible to hide the beta cells from the immune system in mice.
They used alginate derivatives and found one that could hide from the white blood cells within the bodies of primates and mice. Once transplanted, these cells produced insulin and brought their blood sugar levels down safely for approximately 174 days. Currently, stem cell therapy is to be tested on humans, hopefully soon. It will confirm that the technique is efficient and would likely mean that those suffering from diabetes could have the transplant and start producing insulin on their own, which would, in effect, cure the disease and make insulin injections moot.
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