Stem cell treatment for diabetes type 1

In type 1 diabetes the body is unable to produce insulin or the insulin producing beta cells in the body are attacked by the immune system thus destroying it. In the absence of any insulin in the body insulin from an external source has to be provided for patients suffering from this type of diabetes. There are several new approaches to treating this debilitating disease that are being studied to provide relief to millions of people who are affected by this disease every year. Mr. Daniel J. De Noon of WebMD health hews reports on April 10, 2009 that according to a study conducted on 15 patients 14 patients who received their own stem cells were able to stay off insulin for 36 months or three years. This success has been welcomed by everyone the world over, however, it is still not considered as a cure. Scientists have yet to understand how the stem cell treatment works and keeps patients free from insulin. Researchers however agree that despite the small number of patients involved in the study the results are indeed heartening. In order to come to some concrete conclusions follow up trials with large number of people, further biological tests, and then clinical trials are required before this approach is deemed as a potential cure to diabetes type 1.

In type 1 diabetes our immune cells attack the insulin making beta cells in the pancreas and therefore we need to supplementary insulin as the body loses its capacity to manufacture its own insulin. The above mentioned treatment looks to get rid of bad immune cells and place stem cells along with immature immune cells that have still not learnt to attack the beta cells. This will prevent further damage to beta cells of the pancreas and insulin production can be restored.

This treatment is called as autologous nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. It is a four step process. This process is effective only if carried out immediately after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes as at that time the patient has enough non-damaged beta cells left in his pancreas.
In the study conducted the first patient did not have sufficient beta cells when the treatment was started. However, in the next batch the patients were carefully chosen soon after their diagnosis and when they were treated they were able to stay off insulin from one month to thirty five months. These are preliminary findings and much work still needs to be done to prove its efficiency. The study also did not throw light on how the stem cell infusion worked and there are several unanswered question still. But scientists are confident that over a period of time they will be able to find answers to all the question and fine tune this approach to treating type 1 diabetes. As and when it happens it will come as a big relief to those suffering from this awesome disease.