June 15, 2013
Cure For Type I Diabetes May Lie In Stem Cells
Twenty-six million, that is the number of people that are affected according the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. That is just over eight percent of the population of the United States. Another way of thinking of it is about one in in 13 people in the United States has diabetes. As we continue to pour money into research into what causes diabetes and how we can prevent it, there continues to be breakthrough research that opens doors to possible cures for a genetic form of diabetes, Type I diabetes.
Type I Diabetes is much different from the diabetes that you may hear is caused by drinking sugary drinks and eating unhealthy; it is not so much developed but rather it is inherited. Type I is caused when the body attacks itself, more specifically the cells that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to take in glucose for energy. This keeps the body from storing this glucose in the blood and building up.
Dr. Habib Zaghouani at MU School of Medicine and an army of research students has worked to discover a new attribute of Type I diabetes. They have found that when these cells that produce insulin are destroyed, the blood vessels that support these insulin cells are also destroyed. These blood vessels are essential to the production of insulin. Research has already been done to prevent the immune system from attacking the cells that produce and they already have created a medicine that keeps the body from attacking both the cells that produce insulin and the blood vessels that support them. The biggest issue is being able to regenerate the blood vessels that have already been destroyed while not on the medication.
The research done by Dr. Zaghouani shows that they can use medication in conjunction with stem cells to prevent the blood vessels from being destroyed and also create new cells. One big surprise was that, although the use of bone marrow cells allowed for the quick creation of new blood vessels, they didn’t automatically evolve into beta cells. They are able to create new blood vessels, but it doesn’t repair the ones that are damaged. The beta cells are created from the blood vessels though, so the next step in research would be able to find a way to spread the insulin that is supported from these beta cells that are created from these new blood vessels that are created.
Dr. Zaghouani is confident that his research will go from mice to human very soon and lead to great new ideas for a cure for Type I diabetes. As his research goes further, and we see new possibilities for combating diabetes, the sight of a cure gets closer and closer. The days of hourly insulin injections for those with Type I diabetes will soon become a single injection for a lifetime. Although they may need medication to keep the body from attacking these cells, it is much easier and much less painful than a lifetime of shots.
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