Transplanting human stem cells into diabetic mice successfully reversed the condition in research published online ahead of print in Diabetes.
Here is some information about diabetes:
• It is a condition in which the body cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone necessary for the body to absorb sugar in the blood and use it for energy, which results in high blood sugar levels
• 346 million people worldwide suffer from the condition
• In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from the consequences of high blood sugar
Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver implanted human stem cells into mice with diabetes. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into any number of mature cells, depending on their environment. All the mice had weakened immune systems, which prevented their bodies from rejecting the transplant. Once the transplant was complete, the mice were slowly weaned off insulin therapy.
After three to four months, the mice were able to produce their own insulin in response to their bodies' need and were even able to maintain a normal level of sugar in their blood after eating a large amount of sugar. When the investigators removed the transplanted cells and examined them, they found the cells had many of the features of normal insulin-producing cells.
Today's research demonstrates the potential for stem cell transplantation to be a cure for diabetes, although a great deal more research needs to be done before the procedure can be tested in humans.