Scientists at Harvard have successfully created insulin producing cells, and in a large enough quantity to transplant into patients; providing a more effective treatment for Type 1 diabetics across the world.
We need better treatment
Diabetes is a huge problem across the globe and there has been hope for a while that stem cells could offer at least a temporary cure for Type 1 diabetes in particular. Current treatment is inadequate and insulin dosages are inaccurate compared to the body’s own sensitive response by pancreatic beta cells; there are severe consequences of both over and under dosing. As stem cell biology has progressed, many researchers believed that we could create new beta cells, and implant them in people who have lost their own capacity to produce insulin. These would then respond intuitively to blood glucose levels, and act like factories producing and releasing insulin in carefully regulated amounts.
What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2?
Both diabetes conditions involve abnormal blood glucose levels, but Type 1 is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own insulin producing beta cells. Type 1 accounts for about 10% of all cases and isn’t a strictly inherited disease, but there are a number of genetic risk factors which can raise likelihood of developing it at some point. Type 2 is characterised instead by a lack sensitivity to insulin, meaning the body responds poorly to regular quantities. This can force the beta cells to work ever harder, producing ever more insulin – leading to burn out and destruction of beta cell populations. Type 1 is usually treated with insulin injections or patches, and type 2 is initially treated with medication, although in later stages it may require insulin treatment.
In current animal and primate trials, implanted cells carry on producing insulin even after several months
Pancreatic islet of beta cells
Creating these beta cells with various stem cell types has been done before, but this is the first time a mature, functional beta cell of sufficient quantity has been created. The scientists used embryonic stem cells to differentiate into mature beta cells that both sense glucose levels, and respond by secreting insulin.
“For decades, researchers have tried to generate human pancreatic beta cells that could be cultured and passaged long term under conditions where they produce insulin”
Now we’ve established proof of concept and the approach is looking feasible, the next step is clinical trials. Type 2 diabetes is a little more complicated to treat, but this breakthrough is still an exciting step forward towards curing Type 1 diabetes and may help patients with type 2 with dysfunctional or destroyed beta cells.
Read more at Yahoo News