Individuals who suffer from diabetes rely on insulin injections because their body does not contain enough insulin-producing cells. Like many other diseases, stem cells holds incredible potential for diabetes care because these special cells have the ability to develop into any kind of cell. In a diabetic’s case, stem cell therapy can help make up for their body’s natural deficiency. Research in this field is constantly developing as scientists race to find a cure to one of our generation’s most prevalent health crises.
Researchers at the Diabetes Research Institute and the University of North Carolina have discovered one potential avenue for treatment by studying stem cells found in the human body’s “drainage ducts,” which connect the insulin-producing pancreas to the intestines. These cells are pancreatic precursor cells, meaning they have the potential to develop only into pancreatic cells. In lab tests, scientists have successfully instructed these cells to develop into a tissue cluster, which, when inserted into a diabetic mouse, significantly improves the mouse’s blood sugar control. This research builds upon earlier research that injected bone marrow stem cells prompted new growth of pancreatic cells in diabetic mice. A fascinating component of this research is that the new cells do not come from the injected cells themselves, but rather from triggered cell production in the mouse’s own pancreas. In one particular study, symptoms of diabetes were even reversed within two weeks.
Also, earlier this year, a team of scientists in New York had another breakthrough that could transform diabetes prevention through stem cell therapy. They created patient-specific embryonic stem cell lines. Meaning that, with further research into this technique, doctors may be able to create insulin-producing cells for personalized cell therapies.
Research into cures for diabetes is progressing at an impressive pace and stem cell therapy may hold the key to a cure. Diseases, such as diabetes, which have once plagued the population, may become more manageable and even cured through continued stem cell research and treatment.