With all the grim news about the Ebola outbreak, the medical field continues to push towards curing other diseases. Type 1 diabetes has long since grown to epidemic proportions, affecting millions of adults and children globally.
Researchers have announced stem cell research that some are calling the biggest breakthrough since antibiotics. It could end the need for insulin injections endured by type 1 diabetics. The treatment creates insulin-producing cells from stem cells, which scientists are calling a ‘phenomenal accomplishment’ and it has the possibility to ‘leave a dent in the history of diabetes.’
Type 1 diabetes is an immune system response, in which a person’s body attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This insulin is used to convert sugar into energy that the body needs. Type 1 diabetics, unable to make insulin, need regular injections to prevent fluctuating blood sugar levels.
This treatment could spell the end of the deadly complications of diabetes, including kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. It isn’t just type 1 that the treatment offers hope to.
Type 2 diabetes is generally brought about due to obesity, but the researchers think the same type of stem cells could offer hope. As with other recent medical breakthroughs, this one is predicated on stem cells, or what some call ‘master cells.’ The idea is that these master cells could become the body’s repair kit, repairing damage wrought by disease throughout the body.
The new study is published in the journal, Cell. It is only one step away from human trials. The stem cells were grown in a lab, and injected into a mouse with diabetes. The cells started to create insulin, effectively curing the animal.
Dr. Meloton, a researcher who has devoted decades to finding a cure, hailed the new treatment. “We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line.”
“It was gratifying to know that we could do something that we always thought was possible. If we had shown this was not possible, then I would have had to give up on this whole approach. Now I’m really energised.”
He hopes to have human clinical trials up and running in a couple of years. If it works, the treatment could end the need for insulin shots for type 1 diabetics. It will also offer hope for type 2 patients. The impact on a sufferers daily life would be immense. No longer would they be chained to insulin injections, increasing their quality of life by orders of magnitude.
Here’s hoping the promise of the research translates into the cure diabetics have been searching for. Read the study over at Cell.