Advances in the Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes Using Stem Cells

Type 1 Diabetes is a common life-long condition and globally the number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is increasing. For patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes it means living with daily insulin injections and  a high risk of long-term health problems as a result.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School’s, Boston Children’s Hospital, in Massachusetts, have discovered a way to reverse hyperglycemia by modifying defective stem cells to increase the production of a protein called PD-L1.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. When insulin is insufficient, the body cannot convert glucose into energy, the result is an increase of sugar in the blood. Over time, high blood sugar leads to serious systemic complications including damage to the: blood vessels, nerves, brain, kidneys and eyes.

Why does the pancreas not produce enough insulin? Because the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas.

The body produces insulin in the pancreas. This organ contains insulin-producing beta cells. Under normal conditions, these cells are able to sense glucose levels in the bloodstream and release just the necessary amount of insulin to keep sugar levels normal.

For patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly produces inflammatory T cells which attack the beta cells in the pancreas. Over time this attack results in a loss of insulin production.

Scientists hope to find a cure for type 1 diabetes by finding a way to prevent or stop the immune mediated attack on the beta cells.

Several drugs and vaccines have been developed to alter the immune response, but so far these treatments have not shown positive results.

The approach that has shown the most promise is the autologous bone-marrow transplant, which tries to “reboot” a person’s immune system using their own blood-forming stem cells.

A team of researchers, led by an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School’s, Boston Children’s Hospital, found that patients with type 1 diabetes have defective blood stem cells. The defective cells do not produce enough of the PD-L1 protein resulting in an increase in inflammation and possibly triggering the onset of the disease.

In animal models, researchers found that modified stem cells traveled to the animals’ pancreases and reversed the hyperglycemia in all of the animals in the short-term, and one third of the animals maintained normal levels of blood sugar for the rest of their lives.

Clinical trials in humans have showed that inserting stem cells into patients with type 1 diabetes also had positive benefits. Scientists found stem cells have the regenerative potential to repair beta cells, as well as modulate the immune system, by inhibiting the responses that lead to the autoimmune attack on pancreatic beta cells.

A stem cell treatment at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica offers many advantages: The stem cell treatment does not require general anesthesia. The treatment has no risk of contamination by transmittable diseases. The procedure is very quick and easy. At the Stem Cells Transplant Institute, the adult stem cells are extracted from a patient’s own bone marrow and/or fat tissue.  Adult stem cells are superior to embryonic stem cells, because the cells do not require growth over several months and they come from the patient’s own body, virtually eliminating the risk of side effects.

Discover the benefits of stem cell therapy at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute. We look forward to helping you.  Contact Us.