Sweet Stem Cells
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Stem CellsAbout one out of every ten Americans now has diabetes. Expect to add at least one and a half million cases each year because that’s the trajectory of this disease. So finding a cure is a priority since the price tag of treating diabetes is 250 billion dollars a year not because the cost to treat each patient is skyrocketing. It’s due to the sheer numbers of diabetics.

One promising treatment uses stem cell technology and eliminated diabetes in mice in forty days. Researchers developed insulin producing cells, called S7, from human embryonic stem cells. These S7 cells produce insulin and regulate the level of glucose in the blood. The upsides to this treatment are many.

For one, you remove a diabetic’s burden of insulin injections to modulate their blood sugar which is often challenging. And, this beats pancreas transplants which is in short supply and requires immunosuppressant drugs. The supply of S7 would potentially be sustainable since they’re produced from stem cells.

The downside is they’re derived from embryonic stem cells which faces ethical challenges. The researchers claim they can switch to adult stem cells, but that remains to be proven.

One challenge is S7 cells react slower to glucose than natural beta cells which normally do the job in our bodies. S7 also does not make as much insulin. Both these issues are now being tackled.

Another challenge is making S7 work for both Type 1 and 2 diabetes. Most likely it won’t work for Type 1 diabetics whose immune systems attack insulin producing cells and could theoretically do the same to S7s. For now, they appear to work best with Type 2 diabetes, at least in mice.

That’s why it’s premature to call this a cure, but it’s a big step forward.

For more information…

Insulin-Producing Stem Cells Could Provide Lasting Diabetes Treatments
From PBS

Protocol Rapidly Transforms Stem Cells
From MedpageToday

American Diabetes Association
A fantastic source of information on diabetes