Health Team

Stem Cells Could Treat Juvenile Diabetes

Posted April 10, 2007

One way those stem cells may prove useful is in the fight against diabetes, freeing some patients from the need for insulin or other medications.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a stem cell transplant might be the key to freedom for many newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetics.

"These are not embryonic stem cells. These are your own circulating blood stem cells from the patient themselves," said Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University.

People with diabetes have faulty immune systems that destroy islet cells in the pancreas. In a Brazilian study with 15 patients, doctors removed the patients' own stem cells from their blood and froze them. Chemotherapy weakened the patients' immune system so they would be more receptive to the fresh stem cells, and in all one but one of the patients, the new immune system stopped destroying islet cells.

"This is the first time in the history of diabetes that patients have gone an interval, an interval up to three years and perhaps longer -- only time will tell -- requiring no treatment, no insulin, no immune suppression, no medications at all," Burt said.

Researchers said the procedure might work only for patients recently diagnosed with diabetes because they still have islet cells left in the pancreas.

Kim Black, 15, has struggled with diabetes since she was 5. She has an insulin pump implanted in her side to give her medication about five times a day.

"I have to think about it 24/7, all the time, like when I'm going to eat next, where I'm going and if I have to bring a test kit, and how much insulin I have to give myself and everything," Black said.

The idea of undergoing stem cell treatment to cure her diabetes is like a dream to her, she said.

"I don't know what it's like to live without Type 1 diabetes," she said.


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  • bw23 Apr 16, 2007

    One day when we're nothing more than a history lesson, scientists will look back and be baffled by our publics blinded ignorance. They will wonder what we were thinking just like we wonder why "Doctors" believed in controlled bleeding to cure diseases.

    Ignorance is a powerful entity that affects the entire human race...from the beginning until our extinction.

  • 4lilboys Apr 13, 2007

    I am 26 and I have had diabetes since I was 6. I can vouch for how devastating diabetes can be. I have had several car accidents because of my diabetes; during my pregnancies, my diabetes was out of control (passing out at the drop of a dime); and the cost of diabetes is unbelievable. I hope they do cure it but then you will have to look at, has a cure not been discovered before now because then endocrinologists will not be in demand as much (most of their business will be gone).

  • oceanchild71 Apr 13, 2007

    Imagine sfate61's worries about her daughter's quality of life which would include everything from the ability to have a child being compromised to losing kidney functions or having to undergo amputation due to ciculatory problems or losing eyesight! And this is just one disease! There are hundreds out there that could possibly be treated or eradicated if the research was allowed! Yes, some successes have been reported using adult stem cells, however, some of those successes have been shown to be falsified research. Also, some diseases just do not respond to that line of research.

  • oceanchild71 Apr 13, 2007

    Fetus: The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo.

    So I apologize, I was mistaken. I should have said "hysterical people conjuring up images of fetuses raised in test tubes."

    BTW, I have two daughters who are the center of my world. Because of that, I want every researcher out there working on cures and treatments of every ailment out there as fast, as ethically, and as scientifically correct as possible in case God forbid my child develops a disease or condition which could very negatively impact or even end their lives. Why don't you speak to all the people who are suffering from the diseases who need the embryonic stem cells and see how it is for them?

  • XRAYMAMA Apr 12, 2007

    oceanchild71: Intresting how you use the term "fetus" when talking about babies that have already been murdered and then used the word "babies" when describing the images that "hysterical people conjure". I have always thought that people use the word "fetus" to dehumanize the baby to ease their conscience over abortion. From the instance the sperm meets the egg it becomes a real live baby. As a mother, I will never forget the moment I saw my sons heart flutter on the Ultrasound. that was at 9wks gestation, so clearly a BABY is alive long before it enter the world, and no scientific term will change that.

  • areyou.serious Apr 12, 2007

    oceanchild - learn the facts. The president supports stem cell research, just not embryonic stem cell research which have so far have had absolutely no value. Compare that with adult stem cells which have successfully treated thousands of patients and more than 90 diseases. This whole debate is simply a way to try to justify the legitimacy of abortion. Learn the truth:

    The media doesn't take the time to learn the truth either and loves to portray the current administration as a bunch of religious zealots. Apparently they have convinced you....

  • sfate61 Apr 11, 2007

    Thank you oceanchild71. My daughter hasn't heard about this and I can't wait to tell her. There has been years of research on diabetes, but nothing has ever come close as this. I am hoping that this is a cure for everyone with diabetes so they don't have to struggle day after day in taking those shots and keeping up with their blood sugars.

  • romeopm Apr 11, 2007

    i have had diabetes for 10 yrs and each day is a srtuggle...i hope a cure is very close!

  • oceanchild71 Apr 11, 2007

    I agree that there should be certain guidelines in place. However, to limit the research to only the 13 existing stem cell lines is stupid!

    Think of all the aborted fetuses out there! Those cells could be used to help a child or adult with any number of illnesses or conditions. While I do not want the abortion rate to go up, there are ways to increase the scope of the research and the supply of stem cells without hysterical people conjuring up images of babies raised in test tubes just to be mined for their parts.

  • XRAYMAMA Apr 11, 2007

    Amazing. This really gives hope for the children with Type1 diabetes. But what about people who have lived with this for years. Maybe there will be something for them soon too.
    oceanchild71: It is not a matter of religous zealotry but a matter of right and wrong. science has no right to play god and create lives just to end them.