Adult Stem Cell Research Has Yet Another Victory – Helps Type 1 Diabetics

New research using adult stem cells is showing further insulin independence for Type 1 diabetes patients. The study, led by Richard Burt of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, is the second in the last two years to show significant progress in diabetes using the noncontroversial stem cells.

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LifeNews.com is reporting that the study showed that patients receiving injections with adult stem cells were able to go as long as four years without having to rely on insulin shots.

In the new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Burt and his colleagues show how the majority of patients with type 1, or juvenile, diabetes who underwent a certain type of stem cell transplantation became insulin free.

Several became insulin free for more than three years, with good glycemic control, and also increased C-peptide levels, an indirect measure of beta-cell function, according to the report they published in the April 15 issue of JAMA.

A previous study found that the use of adult stem cells in 15 patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes resulted in the majority of patients becoming insulin free during the follow-up, which averaged about 19 months.

“However, it was suggested that subsequent insulin independence was a prolonged honeymoon period due to dietary and exercise changes associated with close posttransplant medical observation,” the authors write. They wanted to determine if this change was because of an improvement in beta-cell preservation.

The scientists used HSCT, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, which relies on a patient’s own blood stem cells, and involves the removal and treatment of the stem cells and their return to the patient by intravenous injection.

Burt and colleagues conducted a study to determine if posttransplant insulin independence was due to improved beta-cell function by monitoring the C-peptide levels of 23 patients who underwent stem cell transplantation. The patients, with type 1 diabetes were ages 13-31 years. Of the 23 patients, 20 experienced time free from insulin (12 continuously and 8 transiently). 

Patients remained continuously insulin free for an average time of 31 months — with a range of 14-52 months.

One patient had more than four years with no exogenous (produced outside the body) insulin use, four patients for at least three years, three patients for at least two years, and four patients for at least one year. Eight patients relapsed and resumed insulin use at low doses.

Burt and his colleague said the adult stem cell injections were a success and that they resulted in “prolonged and significant increases of C-peptide levels associated with absence of or reduction of daily insulin doses.”

They also acknowledged that only adult stem cells have shown any progress in treating people with diabetes, despite President Barack Obama wanting more money to flow to embryonic stem cell research.

“At the present time, autologous nonmyeloablative HSCT remains the only treatment capable of reversing type 1 DM in humans,” they wrote.

A previous study Burt headed in 2007 showed adult stem cells were able to spur prolonged insulin independence in patients with diabetes. 

The study involved 15 diabetic patients and who had been diagnosed in the previous six weeks and required insulin. The doctors harvested the patients’ own stem cells and injected them intravenously.

In the follow-up, 14 of the patients became insulin free – 1 for 35 months, 4 for at least 12 months, and 7 patients for at least 6 months. Two patients responded later to the treatments and were insulin free for one and fifteen months respectively.

This new study was the follow-up to the prior research.