Often associated with the obesity epidemic, Type 2 Diabetes, is estimated to affect over 26 million adults and children in the United States. If trends continue, 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050.
For decades, researchers have been searching for better ways to treat this chronic blood condition. Type 2 Diabetes is caused by the body’s low production of (or resistance to) the hormone insulin, which prevents glucose (the body’s “fuel”) from getting to cells for energy and storage. Over time, Type 2 Diabetes can begin to affect many other parts of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. A promising new stem cell research study may point to a better way to treat this disease.
Through IV infusion or direct delivery into the pancreas, Chinese scientists used umbilical cord tissue derived stem cells for 22 patients with Type 2 Diabetes. In the 12 months following the transplant procedure, patients’ blood glucose declined and their beta cell’s ability to store and release insulin increased. 17 of the patients were able to gradually reduce their insulin therapy requirements for an average of two months, and seven of those 17 were able to stop insulin treatments entirely for an average of nine months, with no adverse side effects. In total, five of the 17 patients had a more than 50% reduction in their insulin treatment, and in the five others the dosage of insulin decreased to different degrees. More research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings, but the study suggests the potential for using stem cells as a monthly or yearly treatment to help replace the burden of daily insulin therapy for millions of patients.
Liu X., et al., A preliminary evaluation of efficacy and safety of Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2014, 5:57