A potential cure for type 1 diabetes could be on the horizon after researchers reported positive response from animals tested with a new stem cell treatment. If the treatment works as well in human patients, as it has in animals, it would eliminate the need for regular insulin injections and blood sugar testing.
In this therapy, embryonic stem cells are prompted to turn into insulin-producing cells. These are placed in a small capsule that is implanted under a patient's skin. The capsule protects the cells from the immune system, which would otherwise attack them.
In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. A number of approaches are being used in an effort to find a cure for diabetes, but this is the first to be tested in patients. If the treatment proves successful in human clinical trials, it could be available in several years for type 1 diabetes patients and eventually could also help insulin-using type 2 diabetes patients.
It is like having a new pancreas that makes all the hormones needed to control blood sugar, said the doctors involved in the trial. Experts say that if the therapy can lead to normal insulin levels, it is going to prevent millions of diabetics from getting dangerous complications.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2014, around nine percent of adults aged 18 years and over had diabetes. More than1.5 million deaths in 2012 were as a direct cause of diabetes, with 80 percent of all deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.