Stem cell technique likely to aid in diabetes cure

Barsaba Taglieri
Agosto 10, 2017

Damaged immune cells of type 1 diabetics can be "retrained" to slow the progression of the condition, experts believe.

Immunotherapy trials, by a team at King's College London and Cardiff University, showed "promise" in retraining the patient's immune system to slow the progression of the condition, which now has no cure.

The technique helped researchers to transform punctured skin cells from diabetes patients into insulin producing cells, which could then be transplanted under the skin of people with diabetes.

"We still have a long way to go, but these early results suggest we are heading in the right direction".

Lead author Professor Mark Peakman said: 'When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15 and 20 per cent of their beta cells. We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them. "The peptide technology used in our trial not only appears to be safe for patients at this stage, but it also has a noticeable effect on the immune system".

"This study is a step towards discovering how "stand-in" cells can secrete insulin in the body", said Helge Rader, professor at University of Bergen.

Type 1 diabetes afflicts some 400,000 people in the United Kingdom, one of the highest rates in the world.

The researchers' goal is to replace insulin shots and blood sugar measurements with insulin-secreting cells capable of automatically secreting insulin in response to the blood sugar level.

Otherwise the number of beta cells continues to slowly decrease over time, eventually producing no insulin, and affecting major organs in the body.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "Diabetes UK is committed to increasing our understanding of the immune attack in type 1 diabetes and finding ways to stop it".

'That would mean people at risk of type 1 diabetes might one day need to take less insulin, and perhaps see a future where no one would ever face daily injections to stay alive'.

JDRF's United Kingdom chief executive Karen Addington said: "Exciting immunotherapy research like this increases the likelihood that one day insulin-producing cells can be protected and preserved".

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