Diabetes is a disease that affects a large number of individuals around the world; it is estimated by the World Health Organization that around 7% of the world’s overall population[1] have some form of diabetes. But the incidence of this devastating disease is growing at an exponential (some might say epidemic) rate in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,[2] nearly 30 million Americans are currently battling this disease.

In the state of Mississippi alone, approximately 371,662 individuals have either type 1 or type 2 Diabetes. This number accounts for 15.4% of the state’s population. What is more devastating is that an estimated 79,000 are unaware that they are actually diabetic, attributing symptoms to other health conditions and missing the opportunity for treatment options. A considerable percentage of Mississippi’s populace (around 810,000, or 37.5%) are “prediabetic”; experiencing blood glucose levels higher than healthy levels but not yet fitting the criteria to be considered “diabetic”.

These individuals are at a greater risk for complications, and their resulting health consequences (including stroke, heart disease, amputation, blindness, and death) could easily be avoided. The cost of diabetes treatment and prevention extends beyond the patient, however. The cost of diabetes and prediabetes treatment and care cost Mississippi around $3.5 billion dollars a year. Indeed, the medical expenses of those diabetic are approximately 2.3 times higher than non-diabetic individuals. For the state in the union with the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes, that could mean a lot of money lost, coupled with negative health consequences that can be avoided.

Although these are daunting findings, the news is not all bad for our Mississippi. We at Gulf Coast Stem Cell are excited to explore the opportunities for stem cell therapy in the management of diabetes and other diseases. Through research and education, we can help Mississippi become healthier and better informed about one of our generation’s most prevalent health problems. With this goal in mind, the CDC spent $865, 354 on diabetes prevention and educational programs in Mississippi in 2016. This disease is largely preventable as long as the general public understands the causes and symptoms as well as options for treatment. To that end, we offer a short refresher on the specifics of diabetes and some exciting treatments we have found involving stem cell technology.

Diabetes Glucose and Insulin Flow Diagram

Diabetes is a condition in the human body by which the person cannot regulate the levels of glucose in their blood. During the natural and necessary process of digestion, complex carbohydrates in our food are broken down into more simple sugars that the body can use for energy. Too high a blood sugar, or glucose, can have dire consequences, however. This balance of glucose is typically accomplished by the pancreas, which secretes a hormone known as insulin. Beta cells in the pancreas manufacture and release insulin at times specified by the body based on measurements of blood glucose levels.

Beta cells, in normal body function, can rapidly respond to spikes in blood glucose by releasing more insulin, while producing more. The release of insulin into the bloodstream thereby regulates healthy sugar levels within the body, allowing the sugar to enter cells for metabolism and storage. Diabetes interrupts this process by disrupting insulin production as well as glucose absorption and metabolism.

In type 1 Diabetes, the body’s own immune system destroys pancreatic cells that produce the b-cells; so there is little or no production of insulin from the pancreas. In type 2 Diabetes, however, the tissues of the body do not respond correctly to insulin, rendering it ineffective to varying extents. In time, patients’ b-cells may stop producing insulin and, indeed, the body may become resistant to it. In both cases, high concentrations of blood glucose can lead to kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness, loss of limbs, and eventually death. In fact, all those diseases have a common pathology and disease that afflicts their blood vessels. So it is not strictly the levels of sugar that play havoc with the blood vessels but the lack of, or resistance to insulin. Since diabetes is not yet a curable disease, it can have a great impact on those suffering from it as well as their families.

The good news is that it is largely preventable, as well as treatable.

As in the case of many other diseases, treatments utilizing stem cells hold remarkable promise. Stem cells have incredible potential for the treatment of diabetes especially because these amazing cells hold the ability to develop into any type of cell required. Stem cells derived from either embryonic or adult tissues can regenerate the b-cells in the pancreas as well as replace the damaged ones. In the case of the diabetic patient, stem cell therapy can help make up for the naturally occurring insufficiency. Some researchers have found that patients with type 1 Diabetes can improve their quality of life by replacing damage b-cells with donor cells since the function of their own beta cells is largely lost.

Type 1 patients are currently better candidates for stem cell treatment because the damage is only to one particular pancreatic cell type. Some research is aimed at implanting stem cells in places other than the pancreas, like the liver. Researchers also believe that when the transplanted stem cells float in the bloodstream or placed at the site of damage, they can migrate to places affected by sequelae of diabetes and repair or replace damaged and dead cells, thereby reversing the debilitating effects of neuropathy and other diabetes-related complications. With further research, this method can also be used to help patients with other types of diabetes by supplying them with b-cells from organ donors.

Patients can use their own cells or donor cells to induce regeneration, although it is easier at this time to use donor b-cells for more certain results. The process involves isolating the islet cells (cell cluster within the pancreas with several types of task-specific cells) within the pancreatic tissue. The cells are then infused into the patient’s bloodstream. Since the isolation process can sometimes damage the transplanted tissue, at least three separate donors are required in order to obtain the minimum mass of b-cells necessary for successful transplantation. Another experimental method involves growing stem cells in a laboratory and differentiating them in order to isolate the insulin-producing cells.

These cells could then be transplanted into the diabetic patient. Due to the number of individual donors necessary to facilitate treatment, the patient is often placed on immunosuppressant medications to minimize tissue rejection. With this in mind, it is especially important that money is allocated not only for research but community education. While researchers are actively investigating sources of new beta cells that could be potential candidates in pancreatic regeneration, the results show a viable treatment option is available. One study reported that patients didn’t have to resort to injectable insulin for five years following stem cell therapy.

These results show great promise and illustrate how integral stem cell research and therapy are heading towards effectively helping cure existing diseases. With future research into these techniques, scientists hope to be able to create insulin-producing cells to stimulate pancreatic regeneration and provide for personalized cell therapies. It is essential in order for progress to be made that hospitals and clinics have sufficient numbers of willing donors, and therefore that people are aware of the possibility of reversing the financial and health toll of diabetes on our state.

Any treatment is destined for ultimate failure unless the patient practices preventive measures, to prevent relapse into diabetes again, in spite of the initial success. Diet, obesity, and lack of exercise are the main culprits that play havoc with our bodies, increasing the incidence of all categories of disease, including diabetes. To simply treat diabetes without treating the underlying causes is like keeping the tap on at full throttle and simply mopping up the overflowing water from the floor. It has been repeatedly documented that communities that eat a plant-based diet have little obesity with an extremely low incidence of all known diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure heart disease, renal failure, and cancer. So, in fact, we are what we eat!

Continued research into achievable cures for diseases that affect our lives, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Muscular Dystrophy is what we do at Gulf Coast Stem Cell Regenerative Center. As an affiliate partner of the Cell Surgical Network, we conduct patient-funded research with the intention of treating patients with their own autologous stem cells. We aid in the management of autoimmune, degenerative, inflammatory, and ischemic conditions, and our highly skilled team of providers are committed to the goal of alleviating symptoms, enhancing functionality, and improving quality-of-life for our patients. We look holistically at patients by instructing risk modification through diet and a program of exercise.

Please feel free to contact us to that we can discuss your individual conditions and needs, as well as suitability for treatment. Contact Gulf Coast Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center and let us show you what “Excellence with a Human Touch” means. For more information on the full list of diseases and disorders that we currently address, please call (866) 885-4823. Our facility is located at 1153 Ocean Springs Rd., Ocean Springs, MS. 39564. Or visit our website at www.gulfcoaststemcell.com.

[1] https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/RegenerativeMedicine/2006Chapter7.html
[2] http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/Advocacy/burden-of-diabetes/mississippi.pdf

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